This afternoon, Basic Rights Oregon joined parents of transgender youth, the ACLU of Oregon and Lane Powell in Portland to ask a federal judge to throw out a case attacking transgender and gender non-conforming students in our state. The lawsuit, filed by the anti-LGBTQ group Parents for Privacy last November, challenges the Dallas School District’s policies allowing transgender students access to facilities consistent with their gender identities.
The plaintiffs in this case argue that creating a safe and affirming learning environment for transgender students violates the rights of their peers – a claim that has already been rejected, time and time again, in similar lawsuits filed across the country.
The simple truth is that lawsuits like the one in Dallas are advocating for discrimination against transgender students. When these students are singled out and forced out of the same facilities their classmates use every day, the results can be devastating.
More than 40 percent of the transgender community will attempt suicide at some point during their lives because of bullying, discrimination, and social rejection. For many youth, being able to access support in school is quite literally a matter of life or death.
Our state has made a commitment to protect these students: in 2016, the Oregon Department of Education partnered with us to develop new guidelines for public schools across Oregon. State law also prohibits schools from discriminating against any student based on gender identity. This lawsuit would challenge not only district policies in Dallas, but would directly attack these protections for transgender students in all Oregon cities, counties, and school districts.
It’s clear we still have much work to do. Only a few weeks ago, two Oregon school districts withdrew from a statewide competition rather than provide an affirming book about a transgender child to elementary school students. We’ve seen school officials in North Bend blatantly discriminate against LGBTQ students. And in the past year, we’ve heard reports of transgender students being harassed in Madras, Coos Bay, Medford, Stayton, Grants Pass, and even Portland.
We won’t rest until every school in our state provides a safe learning environment for LGBTQ students. If this lawsuit goes forward, we will continue to fight it. If similar challenges are raised in court, we will push back.
In the coming months, we will find out if our motion to dismiss this lawsuit has been granted. In the meantime, we continue our work to ensure that transgender youth everywhere are able to live without fear or shame.