The Anoka-Hennepin School District has reached a $300,000 settlement with a transgender former student after the district barred him from using the boys locker room in 2016. The district also agreed to policy changes.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota, which announced the settlement Tuesday, March 23, the school district agreed to the following steps to avoid discrimination in the future:
• Affirming students of all gender identities that they are welcome in the district and valued.
• Developing a policy to allow every student to use all facilities consistent with their gender identity.
• Training all school board members, staff and students on the policy.
• Reaffirming its commitment to comply with the Minnesota Human Rights Act and not discriminate or segregate transgender students.
The ACLU, Stinson LLP and Gender Justice won the settlement on behalf of the boy, according to a statement from the ACLU.
In 2016 the Anoka-Hennepin School District told the Coon Rapids High School student he would no longer be allowed to use the boys locker room with the rest of the boys swim team.
Over the next summer, the district added an “enhanced privacy” bathroom with changing facilities that the boy was meant to use from then on. The district threatened to discipline the student if he didn’t use the special facilities, according to the lawsuit, although the consequences were never specified.
After being singled out by the district, the student was then bullied, according to the ACLU. In April 2017 he was hospitalized for the third time for mental health issues related to the situation.
His mother then transferred him out of the district.
The lawsuit was filed in 2019.
Last September, the state Court of Appeals found the incident violated the Minnesota Human Rights Act and the Minnesota Constitution. In its opinion it wrote that the Minnesota Human Rights Act “prohibits segregating and separating transgender students with respect to locker-room use.”
“It meant a lot to see the courts protect transgender students like me,” the student told the ACLU. “Today’s settlement agreement makes it very clear that segregating transgender students doesn’t just dehumanize us, it violates our legal rights.”
This is the second lawsuit against the school district regarding LGBTQ+ discrimination, according to the ACLU. The first alleged the district didn’t control bullying, therefore creating an unequal access to education for LGBTQ+ students.
Gender Justice Executive Director Megan Peterson told the ACLU there has been a recent uptick in transgender students being targeted in political attacks over their right to receive health care, attend school or play in organized sports. Those students deserve equal treatment to their classmates, Peterson said.
“Instead, far too many are being targeted for discrimination by adults who should be watching out for them,” Peterson said in a statement. “With this settlement, we hope to send a message that discrimination against trans students is not only wrong, it comes with a cost.”
The school district released the following statement on the decision:
“The Minnesota Court of Appeals has established clarity for transgender student access to locker rooms. Since the decision, Anoka-Hennepin has modified its policy and procedures as well as training of staff and students regarding student right of access to any and all facilities consistent with their gender identity. All legal issues have been resolved.
“The district is committed to providing a safe and respectful learning environment for all students and families including transgender and gender nonconforming students. The Court of Appeals notes the district’s approach in the majority opinion by stating, ‘We are sympathetic to all parties involved and readily acknowledge the task the school district faced as it sought to balance the privacy interests of all of its students while addressing issues that are of first impression in Minnesota.’”