A transgender student has been awarded $300,000 in a discrimination lawsuit and a guarantee of meaningful reforms by the Anoka-Hennepin School District.
In 2016, the school board initially barred Nick, a transgender student, from using the boys’ locker room, after he had been welcomed by and participated on the boys’ swim team for much of the season. Nick was singled out and forced to use segregated changing facilities that no other students were required to use. This discrimination led to bullying and threats against his family, causing Nick emotional distress and harm.
“I never want any student to experience the discrimination and cruelty I experienced from the adults at my school,” Nick said in a statement published by the ACLU.
It means a lot to see the courts protect transgender students like me. Today’s settlement agreement makes it very clear that segregating transgender students doesn’t just dehumanize us, it violates our legal rights.”
The settlement comes after a ruling by the state Court of Appeals finding that it’s 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.
The school district agreed to take several steps including:
- Reaffirming its commitment to comply with the Minnesota Human Rights Act and not discriminate against or segregate transgender students.
- Developing a policy to allow every student to use all facilities consistent with their gender identity that includes a complaint procedure and a prohibition on reprisals.
- Training all school board members, staff and students on these policies.
- Affirming that students of all gender identities are valued and welcome.
In 2016, more than 55 percent of Minnesota students who identified as transgender reported having attempted suicide within the prior two years, according to a Minnesota Department of Education survey. Health risks like this are largely eliminated when transgender students are supported in their efforts to live in a manner consistent with their gender identity.
“The Minnesota Court of Appeals has established clarity for transgender student access to locker rooms. Since the decision, Anoka-Hennepin has modified its policy and procedures as well as training of staff and students regarding student right of access to any and all facilities consistent with their gender identity. All legal issues have been resolved. The district is committed to providing a safe and respectful learning environment for all students and families including transgender and gender-nonconforming students. The Court of Appeals notes the district’s approach in the majority opinion by stating, “We are sympathetic to all parties involved and readily acknowledge the task the school district faced as it sought to balance the privacy interests of all of its students while addressing issues that are of first impression in Minnesota.”
This the second lawsuit against Anoka-Hennepin School District over discriminatory policies regarding LGBTQ students. The first lawsuit alleged the district allowed uncontrolled bullying and created unequal access to education. Nine students committed suicide in just two years.
The district was still under a five-year federal consent decree to address anti-LGBTQ harassment when they discriminated against Nick.
The ACLU-MN is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that works to defend the civil liberties of all Minnesotans through litigation, community engagement, and advocacy. Learn more at www.aclu-mn.org.
Gender Justice is a nonprofit legal and policy advocacy organization dedicated to advancing gender equity through the law by dismantling barriers and expanding protections so that all people can thrive regardless of their gender, gender expression, or sexual orientation. Learn more at www.genderjustice.us.