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 Minnesota Human Rights Act and the rights to adequate education and equal protection guaranteed by the Minnesota Constitution by treating N.H. differently than other students and by failing to provide him with an equal and adequate education.
READ MORE ABOUT THE FAMILY’S EXPERIENCE IN THE HENNEPIN-ANOKA SCHOOL DISTRICT
April 2018 Letter to the MN Department of Human Rights
February 2019 Complaint Filed with Anoka County
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.
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.
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
How to Support 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.
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