LEGAL WIN: Safe schools for transgender students

"It means a lot to see that courts protect transgender students like me. Today's decision makes it very clear that segregating trans students doesn't just dehumanize us, it violates our legal rights." - N.H., Plaintiff

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 28, 2020

CONTACT
Megumi Rierson
[email protected], 612-910-8176

Lynette Kalsnes
[email protected], 612-270-8531

Appeals Court Rules Segregation of Trans Student Violates State Constitution, Civil Rights Law

ST PAUL, MINN [9/28/20] – Today, the State Court of Appeals found that it is a violation of both the Minnesota Human Rights Act and the Minnesota Constitution for school districts to segregate transgender students from their peers in locker room facilities.

In February of 2019, Gender Justice, the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota and the law firm Stinson LLP, asserted that the Anoka-Hennepin School District violated the state Constitution’s right to equal protection and the Minnesota Human Rights Act by barring N.H., who was on the boys’ swimming team, from using the locker room that matched his identity. Instead, the district singled him out and forced him to use a segregated locker room all by himself, leading to bullying and threats against his family.

A district court judge rejected Anoka-Hennepin’s attempt to dismiss the case, and instead forwarded it to the appeals court, which found it is unlawful to segregate a boy from his peers just because he is transgender.

“… the MHRA’s education provision protects the rights of any student to use locker rooms without discrimination. The MHRA prohibits discrimination ‘in the full utilization of or benefit from any education … services rendered ,” Judge Reyes wrote in the ruling.

“… It is difficult to imagine how requiring only the transgender student to use a separate locker room would not stigmatize that student,” the ruling said.

“I never want any student to experience the discrimination and cruelty I experienced from the adults at my school,” said plaintiff N.H. “It means a lot to see that courts protect transgender students like me. Today’s decision makes it very clear that segregating trans students doesn’t just dehumanize us, it violates our legal rights.”

“Today’s decision is a critical victory in our fight for safe schools for every trans student,” said Gender Justice’s Legal Director Jess Braverman. “The decision is clear: segregating trans students is a violation of the Minnesota Constitution and the Minnesota Human Rights Act. Every student, including transgender students, should feel safe and supported at school.”

This is the second such lawsuit filed against the district — it was still under a five-year consent decree to deal with anti-LGBTQ harassment when officials discriminated against the trans teen in this case.

“It is shameful that Anoka Hennepin School District had to be sued once again over its discrimination against LGBTQ students,” said ACLU-MN staff attorney David McKinney. “Hopefully, the district will now do the right thing and embrace transgender-inclusive policies, rather than ostracizing students and depriving them of equal access to education.”

Gender Justice is a legal non-profit working to advance gender equity through the law using impact litigation, policy advocacy, and community engagement. The ACLU of Minnesota is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that works to protect and promote the civil liberties of all Minnesotans through lawsuits, legislation and community engagement.

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Watch us talk about what this decision means for our case and for transgender students in Minnesota. • Jess Braverman, Gender Justice Legal Director • Erin Maye Quade, Gender Justice Advocacy Director • David McKinney, ACLU Staff Attorney • Meg Luger, Education Minnesota Staff Attorney