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Expelled for Being Transgender, Student Says

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (CN) - California Baptist University expelled a student when it learned she had discussed "the stigma of being transgender" on an MTV show, the student claims in court.

Domainlor Javier Cabading sued California Baptist University, its Dean of Students David Anthony Lammons, and its Vice President for Student Services Lowell Kent Dacus, in Superior Court.

Cabading, whom the complaint refers to as "Ms. Javier," claims the school unlawfully expelled her "only weeks before she was to begin pursuing her degree in nursing" because it found out she is transgender.

Cabading, who is 26 and a native of the Philippines, says she came to the United States in 2007 to earn a college education and a find a job so she could take care of her mom.

"Although Ms. Javier was born male, she has viewed herself as female for as long as she can remember and as presented herself as female since she was a child," the complaint states.

California Baptist University is an accredited university founded in 1950. It is affiliated with the California Southern Baptist Convention and is the "only Southern Baptist college or university on the West Coast," according to its website.

The college has more than 6,000 students "from 37 states and 30 foreign countries," and 508 faculty members at four California campuses, according to the complaint.

The school says on its website that its mission is to provide a "Christ-centered educational experience that integrates academics with spiritual and social development opportunities. Graduates are challenged to become individuals whose skills, integrity and sense of purpose glorify God and distinguish them in the workplace and in the world."

Cabading says she submitted an online application to CBU around Feb. 28, 2011, while she was a student at Riverside City College.

"On the application, she indicated that her academic goal was to graduate from CBU with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing," the complaint states.

In response to questions about her religious beliefs, she wrote that she is Catholic and goes to a Catholic church in Riverside, Cabading says.

When the application asked her to identify her gender, she says she checked the box marked "female."

To complete the application, Cabading says, she had to click "I agree" in response to a statement of agreement that outlined CBU's policies for student conduct. Among other things, the agreement banned smoking, drinking, and tobacco, requires students to attend weekly church services, and tells them to "respect the personal integrity of every member of the campus community ... by refraining from profanity, harassment, [and] physical or verbal abuse," according to the complaint.

Cabading claims: "Neither the application, nor the statement of agreement, nor any of the documents referenced therein, address gender identity, gender expression, or transgender persons."

Cabading says CBU accepted her as an honors student in a June 10, 2011 acceptance letter, which said she was eligible for financial aid.

Cabading says she applied for an academic scholarship and was awarded $3,500, and received $2,000 more after she auditioned for the CBU's women's choir and impressed them with her "skills as a female singer."

But a little over a month later, Cabading says, she received a letter from defendant Dean Anthony Lammons, stating that CBU was "suspending her registration eligibility" because she had lied about her identify.


"Fearing that her educational plans were in jeopardy, Ms. Javier called Dean Lammons to schedule a meeting to discuss the matters addressed in the July letter. A meeting was scheduled for July 28, 2011," the complaint states.

It continues: "Ms. Javier attended the July 28, 2011 meeting. Also in attendance were Dean Lammons and a third person whose identity is unknown.

"Dean Lammons told Ms. Javier that she could not record the meeting, either by use of a recording device or by taking notes, and that she could not bring anyone else to the meeting.

"At the meeting, Dean Lammons informed Ms. Javier that he believed she committed fraud and concealed her identity, in violation of the code of conduct, by stating her 'gender' was 'female' on the application.

"At the meeting, Dean Lammons and the faculty member discussed an episode of an MTV show called 'True Life,' on which Ms. Javier had appeared in order to discuss the stigma of being transgender.

"In response, Ms. Javier acknowledged being transgender but denied committing fraud or concealment of identity, and explained how selecting female for her gender on the application was consistent with her gender identity.

"Nevertheless, by letter dated August 4, 2011 (the 'August 4 letter'), Dean Lammons notified Ms. Javier that she was expelled effective that day. In the August 4 letter, Dean Lammons claimed that it was his 'determination that sufficient evidence exists to warrant a finding of a violation of the following ... Community Social Misconduct No. 6 - Committing or attempting to engage in fraud, or concealing identity." (Ellipses in original

Cabading says Lammons' letter also accused her of committing "[f]alsification, hiding, distortion, or misrepresentation of information relevant to or requested in connection with the judicial processes.' The August 4 letter did not explain the basis for this additional 'finding." (Brackets in original).

Cabading claims these accusations are just ploys to cover up the real reason CBU expelled her - "namely, that [she] is transgender."

She says she tried to appeal Lammons' decision, but in vain.

"The appeal meeting, which lasted approximately one hour, confirmed that CBU's decision to suspend, exclude, and expel Ms. Javier was based on her transgender identity," the complaint states.

"By way of one example, a CBU representative in attendance asked what Ms. Javier would do if she were accepted into the women's soccer team and had to shower in front of her teammates. That same representative asked, in sum or substance, what the team would see 'when the towel is off.

"By way of another example, CBU representatives refused to answer Ms. Javier's inquiry as to whether she would have been expelled if she had described her gender as male, rather than female, on the application."

Cabading claims the representatives refused to discuss whether her identification as Catholic had anything to do with her expulsion.

On Aug. 30, Cabading says, she received a letter from defendant Vice President Dacus, informing her that the Student Services Committee had denied her appeal.

"The Student Services Committee denied Ms. Javier's appeal and Mr. Dacus forbade Ms. Javier from enrolling at CBU because Ms. Javier is transgender," the complaint states.

Cabading claims that the expulsion delayed her career plans for more than a year.

"Although she later enrolled in the nursing program at another Riverside school, her studies, and therefore her ability to enter the workforce as a nurse, were delayed by over a year. Instead of spending a year gaining nursing experience and drawing a salary, Ms. Javier has spent the past year and a half working at jobs unrelated to nursing in order to afford her nursing program," the complaint states.

She says the new school did not award her a scholarship, forcing her to pay for her training completely out of pocket.

"As a result of the suspension, exclusion, and expulsion, Ms. Javier has suffered economic damages, including loss of the honors scholarships CBU awarded her and loss of wages. The discrimination inflicted upon her also has caused, and will continue to cause, Ms. Javier humiliation and emotional distress," the complaint states.

Cabading seeks at least $25,000 in damages for breach of contract and breach of faith and fair dealing, and a declaration from CBU acknowledging that it violated the Unruh Civil Rights Act.

She is represented by Paul J. Southwick with Davis Wright & Tremaine, of Portland, Ore.

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