ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota and nonprofit Gender Justice filed a lawsuit against Anoka-Hennepin School District Monday based on its alleged mistreatment of a transgender student.
ACLU officials held a press conference to discuss the lawsuit at St. Paul’s Gender Justice.
Officials from both organizations say the district violated the state constitution’s right for equal protection, as well as the Minnesota Human Rights Act in regards to the student.
According to ACLU-MN staff attorney David McKinney, the teen started at Coon Rapids High School in 2015. McKinney said after joining the boys’ swim team and using the boys’ locker room for months, the school board stepped in in February of 2016 and told the student he would be disciplined if he continued to use the locker room.
“The board singled him out. They segregated him from his classmates and forced him to use a facility no one else had to use,” McKinney said.
His mother, identified as J.H. said, “They used their power, and went out of their way to create a problem where there wasn’t a problelm to begin with. They conspired to isolate my said, and ultimately, their actions altered the course of his life.”
The student attended the high school for two years until he and his family made the decision to switch school districts.
“Through all of this, they have robbed him of a normal high school experience,” the student’s mother, identified as J.H. said. “That is why I’m here; to support him and all gender-diverse kids who deserve to be treated with respect and have a chance for a normal high school experience.”
The school district responded to the lawsuit in a statement:
Anoka-Hennepin Schools is committed to providing a safe and respectful learning environment and to providing an education that supports all students and families, including transgender and gender nonconforming students.
The use of restrooms and locker rooms are determined on a case-by-case basis. The goal is to ensure that all students feel safe and comfortable. Plans for accommodation for restroom and locker room use are made in consultation with school building administrators, the Title IX coordinator, and superintendent in compliance with state and federal law. This approach is consistent with guidance from the National School Boards Association and the Minnesota School Boards Association. Providing privacy for all students is an important consideration.
Information regarding individual students is considered private student data and the district is not allowed to comment on such information.
A previous investigation into Anoka-Hennepin’s past treatment of students who endured sex-based harassment led to a five-year Department of Justice consent decree that expired in March of 2017.