ACLU Takes Legal Action to Protect Rights of Minnesota Transgender Student

Affiliate: ACLU of Minnesota
October 13, 2016 12:30 pm

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St. Paul, MINN. — The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota and the ACLU filed a motion yesterday to intervene on behalf of a transgender student in a lawsuit that seeks to bar trans students from using locker rooms consistent with the student’s gender identity.

The transgender girl, identified as Jane Doe to protect her privacy, is a sophomore in high school at a public school in Virginia, Minnesota. Last year she played on the girls’ basketball and track team, and she currently plays on the girls’ volleyball team. A small group of parents, acting through an organization they have named “Privacy Matters,” have filed a complaint against Doe’s school district and the U.S. Department of Education for protecting Doe from discrimination when using the locker room.

The lawsuit seeks to segregate Doe from her peers, prevent her from using the girls’ locker room. The complaint singles her out from her teammates using misleading innuendo and salacious phrasing to depict the ordinary behavior of a teenage girl dancing with the rest of her friends as threatening or scandalous, just because she is transgender.

“This lawsuit has been devastating to my daughter and our family. She just wants to live a normal life,” said the mother of Jane Doe, identified as Sarah Doe in the lawsuit.

“Providing inclusive and nondiscriminatory treatment to Jane Doe does not threaten anyone else’s privacy. The entire team talks, listens to music, and dances in the locker room as part of team camaraderie, and it is unfortunate that the plaintiffs have singled Jane Doe out from the rest of her teammates with these sensational allegations just because she is transgender,” said Joshua Block, senior staff attorney at the ACLU. “Schools can provide extra privacy protections or alternative changing areas for any student uncomfortable changing with the rest of the team, but no student has a right to unilaterally demand that transgender teammates be segregated from the team locker room.”

Doe’s brief argues that she has a right to be free from discrimination on the basis of her sex under the Constitution and Title IX, a federal law which prohibits sex discrimination in educational institutions that receive federal funding. The brief also explains that using the girls’ locker room and restroom is a critical part of Doe’s medical treatment and has had a substantial positive effect on Doe’s health and well-being.

“Jane Doe wants what all of us want, to be accepted for who she is and participate as a member of the team, just like any other girl,” said Charles Samuelson, executive director of the ACLU of Minnesota. “It is hard enough being a teenager without being de-humanized and targeted with these false and sensational allegations.”

The lawsuit was filed in federal court in September 2016. This case is similar to lawsuits filed around the country that are trying to prevent transgender students from using the locker rooms and restrooms that match their gender identity.

Attorneys in the case include Timothy Griffin, Brian Thomson, Andrew Davis, and Ivan Ludmer of the law firm Stinson Leonard Street, Teresa Nelson of the ACLU of Minnesota, and Block of the ACLU.

The motion to intervene can be found here:

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