A Minnesota state court judge just ruled that the lawsuit against Anoka-Hennepin School District for discriminating against a transgender male student (N.H.) can continue.
The Anoka County judge ruled Monday against the school district's motion to dismiss the lawsuit. The judge also officially let the MN Department of Human Rights join the ACLU-MN/Gender Justice side of the lawsuit.
"Allowing the lawsuit to continue and the state Department of Human Rights to join the fight is a big step toward justice for N.H. and other transgender students facing discrimination," said ACLU-MN Staff Attorney David McKinney. "The judge's strongly worded opinion acknowledges the risk our transgender students face in educational settings, and how discrimination can prevent them from getting an equal and adequate education. It's important to note that Anoka-Hennepin is the state's largest school district, and other districts need to pay close attention to this ruling."
The lawsuit asserts that the school district violated the state Constitution’s right to due process and equal protection and the Minnesota Human Rights Act by treating male student N.H. differently than other students and failing to provide him with an equal and adequate education.
The school district and its school board barred the student – who had joined the boys’ swimming team and used the boys’ locker room matching his gender identity for months without incident – from using the boys’ locker room. N.H. was singled out and forced to instead use segregated changing facilities no other student was required to use. This led to bullying and threats against his family. This discrimination caused N.H. serious emotional distress and harm.
"Based on the plain language of Minn. Statute 363A.13, Subd. 1, it is an unfair discriminatory practice for a school to discriminate against a transgender student in any manner that prevents the transgender student from utilizing the full benefits offered, or services provided, by the School District," the judge wrote, adding that the lawsuit shows sufficient facts to assert a claim that the district's actions violate the law.
The district tried to argue the case was moot because N.H. had switched schools. (N.H. had to switch schools due to the serious emotional distress he faced from the discrimination and bullying). The judge said there could be no doubt the case raised an important, statewide issue that should be decided immediately.
"Anyone who has read the newspaper; watched the news or used social media within the last five years cannot dispute the fact that the use of bathrooms and changing facilities by transgender individuals has been hotly debated and is an important policy decision for businesses and government," the judge wrote. "Any argument that this issue is not of public important is disingenuous and can only be made if one completely ignores current events and, like the proverbial ostrich, has its head buried in the sand."
The judge also pointed out the high risk of bullying and suicide attempts among transgender students.
The ACLU-MN is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that works to defend the civil liberties of all Minnesotans. Learn more at www.aclu-mn.org.
Gender Justice is a nonprofit legal and policy advocacy organization devoted to addressing the causes and consequences of gender inequality, both locally and nationally. Learn more at www.genderjustice.us.