ACLU Intervenes to Protect Transgender Student in School Locker-Room Legal Fight

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ACLU Intervenes to Protect Transgender Student in School Locker-Room Legal Fight

Nicole Knight

A group of parents filed a complaint against a Minnesota school district and the U.S. Department of Education to bar a transgender high school student from the girls' locker room.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is taking legal action on behalf of a Minnesota transgender student, whom a group of parents want to stop from using the school locker room consistent with her gender identity.

The ACLU and the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota filed a motion in federal court Wednesday to intervene on behalf of the high school sophomore, who is called Jane Doe to protect her privacy.

Jane Doe, who transitioned publicly in the eighth grade, plays volleyball and other sports and was using the girls’ locker rooms and bathrooms at Virginia High School in Virginia, Minnesota, according to the ACLU motion. In September, a small group of parents filed a complaint against the school district and the U.S. Department of Education to bar Jane Doe from the girls’ locker room.

Because Jane Doe isn’t named in the parents’ lawsuit, an ACLU spokesperson told Rewire that the ACLU motion is Jane Doe’s best chance to “have a voice” in the courtroom battle being waged over her choice to use school facilities where she feels safe and accepted.

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The motion argues that the U.S. Constitution and Title IX prohibit sex discrimination.

“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,” Charles Samuelson, executive director of the ACLU of Minnesota, said in a statement. “It is hard enough being a teenager without being de-humanized and targeted with these false and sensational allegations.”

According to the 16-page ACLU motion, the parents, acting through an organization called Privacy Matters, employed fear-mongering in their lawsuit seeking to bar Jane Doe from girl’s locker rooms. The parents “publicly singled Jane out from the rest of the team and used misleading innuendo and salacious phrasing … depicting the ordinary behavior of a teenage girl as threatening or scandalous just because she is transgender,” the motion said.

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

Apart from the Minnesota case, the ACLU is involved in an “identical” lawsuit in Illinois, and two similar transgender rights cases in North Carolina and Virginia, an ACLU attorney told Rewire by phone.