Thursday, May 12, 2016
Marion County School Board facing Title IX Complaint after
passing an Anti-Transgender Bathroom Policy
School district passed new policy despite warnings it violated federal law
OCALA, FL – A transgender student who was suspended for using the restroom at school is challenging a new Marion County School District policy that forces school to discriminate. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida has filed a complaint on behalf of the student with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights stating that the school district’s policy prohibiting transgender students from using restrooms consistent with their gender identities violates federal anti-discrimination law.
Equality Florida along with the ACLU of Florida, Florida Legal Services, Lambda Legal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the Southern Poverty Law Center issued an open letter to the School Board on Monday, May 9th calling for the immediate reversal of this dangerous and illegal policy.
On April 26, the Marion County School Board passed a resolution which prohibits transgender students from using restroom facilities consistent with the gender they live every day. The School Board voted 4-1 in favor of this discriminatory resolution, even after receiving warnings from the ACLU of Florida, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and Equality Florida that this policy would be profoundly harmful to students, would violate federal Title IX anti-discrimination requirements, and could jeopardize federal funding for the school district.
Within days of the school board vote, a transgender young man – who has asked not to be named – was suspended for using the men’s restroom at school, despite having done so for years without incident. The complaint filed with the Department of Education calls for the district to be required to permit the student to use male restroom facilities on District property and remove the suspension from his disciplinary record. It also calls for the district to revise relevant district policies and update trainings to ensure compliance with Title IX.
The Marion County School Board has faced harsh criticism for for rushing this proposal through in a meeting that failed to adequately notice to the public or meet the standard of imminent threat to public safety necessary to call an “emergency meeting”.
Just one week before the Marion County policy passed, the 4th District Court of Appeals ruled in favor of a transgender student in Virginia regarding a similar anti-transgender policy, and the Department of Justice recently filed its own lawsuit in North Carolina advocating for equal access to restroom facilities for transgender students.
“Marion County’s North Carolina-style policy sends a dangerous and dehumanizing message to LGBTQ students and forces schools to discriminate,” said Hannah Willard, policy & outreach coordinator with Equality Florida. “Instead of focusing on their studies, transgender students are forced to stress over which restroom might be safe for them to use throughout the day, if at all. And now, students are facing disciplinary action for doing something as simple as using the restroom. This policy must be reversed, and we know that this is the first of many actions taken to ensure its repeal.”
Equality Florida and local partner organizations will host a Town Hall event in Marion County this Sunday, May 15th to bring together local advocates and share legal updates with the community.
A copy of the complaint filed today is available here: http://aclufl.org/resources/title-ix-complaint-regarding-marion-county-s...
The Open Letter issued by Equality Florida and five LGBTQ advocacy organizations can be found here: http://www.eqfl.org/news/mcsb_openletter