Victory! Transgender Student Returns to School

Safe Schools

We are thrilled to announce that we have resolved a claim on behalf of a 12-year-old transgender girl who had been excluded from her school because she wears girls’ clothing and asked to be called by a girl's name.

After Emma* was diagnosed with Juvenile Gender Identity Disorder, her parents asked her school district to transfer her to a new elementary school and to allow her to wear girls’ clothing and attend school using the name she prefers – Emma – rather than her legal male name.

The school district refused to allow her to attend school as Emma or to wear girls’ clothing.  The district stated that Emma would “be required to dress as a boy or in gender neutral attire.”  The school district insisted that Emma’s mere presence in school as a girl “would disrupt and interfere with the learning environment” at the school.

Because Emma refused to attend school as a boy, her parents opted to home school her rather than force her to dress and attend school as a boy.  This less-than-ideal educational situation continued for months.

TLDEF intervened after Emma’s case was referred to us by TransYouth Family Allies, which had been working to assist Emma’s family with her transition to a new elementary school.  We wrote to the school district and requested that it reconsider its position.  We pointed out that the district’s decision in Emma’s case violated its own anti-discrimination policy as well as federal law and the U.S. Constitution.

Ultimately, the school district relented rather than face legal action, and this past September, Emma returned to class in a new school, wearing girls' clothing and called Emma.  Her new school has taken steps to ensure a successful return to class, including educating its staff and taking measures to ensure that Emma is not subject to discrimination, harassment or bullying.

Three months after her return, Emma is happy and her parents report that she is doing well in school.  School can be a time of promise and peril for a young transgender girl like Emma, and we continue to work with her family to monitor her progress, to ensure that the school district is meeting its obligations, and to help Emma be as successful as she can be at school.

In addition to TLDEF, the legal team representing Emma and her family included partners Amy Crawford, Jordan Heinz and Emily Nicklin as well as former partner Stephen Patton of Kirkland & Ellis LLP.  We are grateful for their assistance.  We are grateful, too, for the expertise and support of our friends at TransYouth Family Allies, who do phenomenal work for transgender children in need.

*Emma is a pseudonym.  Her real name and all identifying details about her are being kept confidential due to her age.

Please make a donation today to support our work for equal rights for children like Emma.  Until December 31, every donation up to $25,000 will be matched dollar-for-dollar!