Some Minnesota schools just haven’t learned. But we will keep reminding them.
The complaint describes a series of harmful, discriminatory actions by Buffalo Community Middle School against Matt Woods, a transgender student who attended the school from 2015-2017. The school repeatedly isolated him from his classmates, limiting his restroom access to a single facility no other student was required to use, removing him from physical education classes entirely, and generally failing to provide a safe and equitable learning environment.
“What I really want people to understand is that I am a person. A kid. A kid who should not have had to go through that. No one should be excluded and discarded like I was.”Matt Woods
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November 2019 Complaint Filed with Wright County
“Matt was born and raised in this community,” said Matt’s mother Helene Woods. “This is home. So I believed I could count on our area schools, but BHM was willing to watch him suffer and deteriorate – rather than let him use the bathroom. Transgender and gender nonconforming kids are a part of every community, from the Twin Cities to the most rural areas of Minnesota. But no matter where they live or who they are, all of our kids deserve to feel safe and supported at school.”
NEARLY THREE PERCENT OF MINNESOTA TEENS IDENTIFY AS TRANSGENDER OR GENDER NON-CONFORMING, WITH TWO-THIRDS OF THEM EXPERIENCING BULLYING OR HARASSMENT RELATED TO THEIR IDENTITY.
Original drawings from Matt Woods
As a result, their rates of major depression far outpace those of their peers, and they are five times as likely to attempt suicide. However, studies show that these risks can be reversed by allowing young people to live and present in a way consistent with their gender identity, with support from parents, schools and peers.
“The BHM School District not only ignored guidance from Matt’s mental health providers on how to support him as a transgender student, they ignored guidance from the Minnesota Department of Education, and they ignored the law,” said Gender Justice Legal Director Jess Braverman.
As a Minnesotan, Matt Woods has a constitutional right to education and equal protection. As a kid, Matt deserves a safe and supportive place to learn. With this lawsuit, we hope to protect all of these for him, and for students across Minnesota.
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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