Trans Teen Sues School Over Overt Bias

     MILWAUKEE (CN) — Transgender students are branded with bright green wristbands at a Wisconsin high school where such discrimination is rampant, a student and his mother claim in Federal Court.
     A.W., a transgender boy who will return to his Kenosha high school as a senior this fall, was also denied the chance to run for prom king and is required to share sleeping rooms with girls on class trips, according to the lawsuit filed Tuesday.
     The boy’s lawsuit is the latest salvo in a fight over public bathrooms since the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education released guidelines indicating that students should be allowed to use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity, regardless of their biological sex. Wisconsin is one of 13 states to file a federal lawsuit challenging this decision.
     A.W., an academically proficient student who works part-time at a medical office, initially lived his life as girl based on the sex assigned to him at birth, according to the complaint.
     Toward the end of middle school, he began to tell friends, family and school officials that he was a boy, expressing that his gender did not match his biological sex and beginning to transition to an outward masculine identity.
     His doctors are assisting him with this transition, he says, and most of his fellow students and school staff support his identity.
     “Students and teachers who did not know A.W. prior to his transition did not and would not have recognized him as different from any other boy until the discriminatory events described in this complaint took place,” the complaint states.
     When A.W. and his mother requested that he be able to use the boys’ restroom at George Nelson Tremper High School, the administration refused — demanding that he use the girls’ bathroom or a unisex staff bathroom located at the back of an office away from most of his classes and activities, they claim.
     This, along with later similar restrictions, led A.W. to limit his liquid and food intake so that he would not have to use the restroom for the 9 or 10 hours he was at school every day — exacerbating existing medical conditions, the complaint states.
     Upon hearing that the Justice Department ordered schools to allow students to use the bathroom that matched their gender, A.W. began using the boys’ bathroom during his junior year of high school and did so without incident until a teacher reported him, he says.
     In subsequent meetings about the policy, administrators continually referred to A.W. with feminine pronouns and used his former female name, according to the complaint.
     After students nominated A.W. for junior prom king, administrators told him and his mother that he could only run for prom queen. The school changed its tune after dozens of students signed a petition in protest and staged a sit-in that garnered media attention, the complaint states.
     As knowledge of A.W.’s case grew, an adult school volunteer founded a public Facebook group opposing the new federal bathroom laws and mentioned him and his mother by name in the group, according to the complaint. The group, which remains public, posts a variety of links to articles from far-right websites.
     The volunteer approached A.W. at school, put her hands on his shoulders and told him she was “praying for him,” according to the complaint.
     Finally, the school implemented the wristband policy: transgender students are singled out by bright green wristbands to alert observers of their gender identity, the complaint states.
     “Upon learning about the school’s proposed green wristband practice, A.W. felt sickened and afraid,” the complaint states. “He was aware of the prevalence of violent attacks against transgender people nationwide, and grew very afraid that the school would attempt to force him to wear the wristband on penalty of discipline.”
     Despite being informed on multiple occasions of the Justice Department mandate requiring access to bathrooms based on gender, the school district has stood firm on its policy and claims the rule does not apply to it, according to the complaint.
     According to its June 2016 meeting agenda, the district now has policies in place for transgender students — but they still assume students will use the bathroom that corresponds to their biological sex assigned at birth rather than their gender.
     If a student requests to use the bathroom that matches their gender but not their biological sex, the school will review and may approve or deny the request, the agenda states.
     A.W. is seeking relief under Title IX’s gender discrimination prohibitions and the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.
     The California-based Transgender Law Center represents A.W. and his mother and released a statement about the lawsuit Tuesday, referring to the student by name.
     “My peers and many of my teachers know me as a boy, and have been incredibly supportive,” A.W. said in the statement. “But the school administrators have made my life miserable every school day since this spring. I worry about how I’m going to navigate the demands of senior year if I can’t even go to the bathroom without worrying that I’m being watched.”
     A phone call to the school district was directed to Tanya Ruder in media relations, who did not immediately return a voicemail requesting comment. Superintendent Sue Savaglio-Jarvis, who is also named in the lawsuit, did not respond to an email requesting comment.

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