Public School Rightly Gave Separate Restroom Access To Anti-Transgender Teacher, ACLU Says

January 17, 2002 12:00 am

Media Contact
125 Broad Street
18th Floor
New York, NY 10004
United States


ST. LOUIS — A public school in Minneapolis met its legal obligation by giving alternate restroom options to a teacher who did not want to use the same facilities as a male-to-female transgendered employee, the American Civil Liberties Union said in papers filed in federal appeals court today.

Southwest High School teacher Carla Cruzan complained that allowing transgendered library employee Debra Davis to use the women’s bathroom violated Cruzan’s religious freedom and created a hostile workplace based on sex. As a result, the school provided Cruzan with ready access to several other bathrooms, including single-person facilities and other women’s restrooms.

“”Carla Cruzan is the person who thinks there is a problem here, so the school was right to find some other alternative for her,”” said Tamara Lange, an ACLU Lesbian & Gay Rights Project staff attorney.

Unsatisfied with the school’s accommodation for her, Cruzan asked a federal court to block Davis from using the women’s restrooms at the school. She lost and is appealing to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit, in St. Louis. A three-judge panel will hear the case later this year.

In a friend-of-the-court brief filed today, the ACLU said that Cruzan, not the school, was unreasonable when she demanded that the school allow her own personal beliefs to dictate Davis’ use of school restrooms. The ACLU, filing on behalf of groups including the Minnesota chapter of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, also noted that students, teachers, staff and parents at Southwest High School roundly supported Davis and the school’s handling of the situation.

“”The Minneapolis Public Schools have shown a willingness to learn about and support the needs and concerns of LGBT students, parents and staff. From students who plastered the walls with signs supporting Debra to the Out4Good office in the Minneapolis district itself – this community is a model for every school in the country,”” said J.J. Kahle, Co-Chair of GLSEN-Minnesota. “”Debra was supported so she could continue doing her good work in the library. While it’s too bad that Carla Cruzan is intolerant, her concerns were addressed by finding other restrooms she can use.””

Minnesota is one of just two states that explicitly prohibits discrimination based on gender identity – but that civil rights law is not at issue because this case is about whether Cruzan was discriminated against by the school’s accommodation of a transgendered employee. The ACLU Lesbian & Gay Rights Project is currently litigating a New York City case claiming that a landlord violated existing sex discrimination laws by evicting a social services agency because its transgendered clients used restrooms consistent with their gender identities.

Every month, you'll receive regular roundups of the most important civil rights and civil liberties developments. Remember: a well-informed citizenry is the best defense against tyranny.

Learn More About the Issues in This Press Release