Today, the United States District Court in Oregon issued a strong ruling, stating that schools are not only permitted, but required, to treat transgender students equally under the law. This follows the precedent set by other courts throughout the country, which have rejected a number of similar lawsuits in recent years.
We’ve been working hard in collaboration with our partners at the ACLU of Oregon to defeat this mean-spirited lawsuit targeting transgender students in the Dallas school district.
Filed last November by a small group of parents and students through the organizations “Parents for Privacy” and “Parents Rights in Education,” this suit aimed to overturn an existing policy allowing transgender students to use the restrooms and locker rooms that align with their gender identity.
Earlier this year, we intervened in this suit and asked for the case to be dismissed on the grounds that all students deserve access to a safe and affirming learning environment.
In a press release about today’s decision, senior ACLU staff attorney Gabriel Arkles stated, “The judge understood that transgender students just using restrooms and lockers like everyone else does not violate anyone’s rights. In fact, it would violate students’ rights to keep them out of the facilities their peers use just because they are transgender. These cases are a part of a nationwide trend targeting trans young people, and we are proud to defend students’ safety, dignity, and access to education.”
Our board chair, Brook Shelly, agreed: “We are thrilled with the judge’s decision. It sends a clear message to school districts that transgender students deserve the same access to a safe and affirming education as every other student. It also affirms the Dallas School District, which took necessary and legally required steps to affirm a transgender student in their school.”
Despite this victory, our battle is far from over. Already, we’ve seen another lawsuit emerge in Sutherlin, Oregon – this one targeting a specific transgender student. We will continue to defend transgender youth in our schools, and push back against any future lawsuits. No matter how many attacks we see on our community, we are not backing down.
Mat dos Santos, legal director at the Oregon affiliate of the ACLU, agrees: “We will continue to defend transgender students in Oregon from these harmful lawsuits. All students deserve a safe and accepting learning environment, regardless of gender identity. We know that when transgender youth are allowed to show up as their true selves, they thrive and make meaningful contributions to the community. This makes schools better for everyone.”
We could not have come this far without our supporters and legal partners. Thank you to Mat dos Santos and Kelly Simon of the ACLU of Oregon, Gabriel Arkles and Shayna Medley-Warsoff of the ACLU, and Darin M. Sands and Kelsey Benedick of Lane Powell LLP for all your hard work in this case.
We would also like to thank our Fierce Families, a volunteer group of parents and family members of transgender youth, who have shared their stories in courtrooms, rallies, and press conferences. Their tireless efforts have helped set the stage for this victory.
Today, we’re celebrating with Colleen Yeager, one of the Fierce Mothers of a seven-year-old transgender boy, who says a supportive school environment helped her son flourish.
“My son is able to thrive in school because he has received, and continues to receive, the kind of support he does from his teachers, school administration, and school community,” Yeager told us. “Their support has been instrumental in his ability to be himself, to just be a kid, and to be a productive, attentive student, and classroom contributor. This is why this judge’s decision is so important.”