SUPPORTING TRANS STUDENTS IN SCHOOL

Gender Justice, in partnership with the ACLU-MN, and law firm Stinson Leonard Street, is currently representing the mother of a transgender high school student. The student's school district, Anoka-Hennepin, is once against charged with violating the constitutional and civil rights of LGBTQ students.

The school district and its school board barred the student - who had joined the boys' swimming team and used the boys' locker room for months without incident - from using the locker room. N.H.* was singled out and forced to instead use segregated changing facilities no other student was required to use, which led to bullying and threats to him and his mother.

The lawsuit asserts that the school district violated the state constitution's right to due process and equal protection and the Minnesota Human Rights Act by treating N.H. differently than other students and by failing to provide him with an equal and adequate education.

Plaintiff J.H. Copyrighted Photo by Ellie Leonardsmith Photography

Plaintiff J.H.
Copyrighted Photo by Ellie Leonardsmith Photography

Read more about the Family's Experience in the Hennepin-Anoka School district

The stakes in this case are high - and very real.

Nearly three percent of Minnesota students identify as trans or gender nonconforming. Transgender students are two to three times more likely to experience daily verbal and physical harassment, and more than half attempt suicide. However, allowing trans youth to live as their true selves, by transitioning socially, substantially lowers their risk of depression and anxiety.

Gender Justice is proud to support this courageous family in coming forward to protect the human and civil rights of transgender students across Minnesota.

“I didn’t choose this battle. The school board chose us. They used their power and went out of their way to create a problem where there wasn’t a problem to begin with. They conspired to isolate my son and ultimately, their actions altered the course of his life -- and our family’s life. Through all of this, they robbed him of a normal high school experience.

Discrimination is wrong. It's important to me to do this - to file this lawsuit - to be a voice for the voiceless. Children don't make legislation. They can't run on school boards. There are many children out there whose parent isn't willing to stand where I am right now. There are many children who are flying under the radar because they can't afford to be out." 

- Plaintiff J.H.

What makes this case even more egregious is that the Anoka-Hennepin School District has faced legal scrutiny in the past for a similar failure to protect LGBTQ students from harassment. That lawsuit alleged that the district allowed uncontrolled bullying and created unequal access to education.

Nine students died by suicide in just two years, half of them gay or perceived to be gay. The district had to enter into a five-year consent decree with the Justice Department to deal with and document student harassment. It only expired in March of 2017. The district was still in the middle of that monitoring period when they discriminated against the young man in this case.

The majority of educators already know what the right thing to do is

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“Gender identity” is the innate sense and deeply held understanding one has of their gender, which may or may not correspond to the sex assigned to them at birth.

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According to the most recent scientific research, children as young as three already have a strong sense of their gender identity, regardless of whether they are transgender or cisgender. Transgender children can socially transition by using the name and pronouns they prefer. They may also wish to present their appearance and otherwise express their gender in ways typically associated with their gender identity.

Hundreds of school districts around the country allow transgender students to use facilities based on who they are. These policies enhance safety. They ensure that schools are not sending the message that it is okay to target or stigmatize transgender students. There are no data of any kind to support the unsubstantiated claims that these policies undermine the safety of students. In fact, the data that do exist show that there are no heightened risks to safety in protecting trans students from discrimination.

In 21 states plus D.C., more than 225 cities and counties across the U.S., and in school districts educating millions of students, transgender people are explicitly protected from discrimination, including when using restrooms and locker rooms. None of these laws have resulted in an increase in violence or other public safety incidents.

Like everyone, transgender students want and deserve acceptance, Allowing them to live as their true selves.

It’s time once and for all that Anoka-Hennepin, and all school districts across Minnesota, adopt policies and practices that truly ensure a safe and equitable


LEARN MORE ABOUT SUPPORTING TRANS KIDS IN SCHOOL

The Minnesota Department of Education made available a “Toolkit for Ensuring Safe and Supportive Schools for Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students,” on its website. It outlines federal and state laws and offers guidelines on working with parents, community, and school officials; managing names, pronouns, and student records; handling school athletics and social events; and dealing with dress codes, restrooms, and locker rooms. The Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Welcoming Schools website is also a valuable resource.

You can help other transgender students and their families, like J.H. and N.H, by donating today.