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Court allows Minnesota to join lawsuit against Anoka-Hennepin Schools alleging transgender discrimination

The school district is accused of discriminating against a transgender student.

The Minnesota Department of Human Rights has been given the green light to join a lawsuit alleging discrimination against a transgender student by Anoka-Hennepin School District.

The mother of the transgender male student launched the suit against Minnesota's largest school district, claiming their son as a member of the Coon Rapid High School boys' swim team was forced to use an "enhanced privacy" boys' locker room, which was "entirely separate and segregated from the main boys' locker room."

The Minnesota DHR announced in March it intended to join the lawsuit, saying that banning the boy from using the main boys' locker room because he is transgender "resulted in a hostile education environment that stigmatized [the boy] and other transgender students."

Anoka-Hennepin issued a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, but this was denied according to a district court ruling released on Monday.

The same court approved the requested from the Minnesota DHR to join the lawsuit, with the Minnesota American Civil Liberties Union also involved.

"Separate never has been, and never will be, equal," said Minnesota Department of Human Rights Deputy Commissioner Irina Vaynerman in a press release.

"Since 1993, the Minnesota Human Rights Act has protected everyone from gender identity discrimination, including transgender and gender nonconforming students. The Court’s ruling affirms our right to uphold these protections."

The DHR is seeking to enforce the Minnesota Human Rights Act by having the school district revise its policies and procedures, train its staff, and report to the DHR about its compliance with its revised policies.

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The state has previously noted that several claims of discrimination have been filed against Anoka-Hennepin School District, including in 2011 following the suicide of four LGBTQ students.

In that lawsuit, the school district was accused of perpetuating a "harmful and toxic environment for LGBTQ students," which in 2012 saw the federal Department of Justice demand it take proactive measures to reduce discrimination.

In a statement released in March, the school district argued that its locker room restrooms conform with national and state schools guidelines.

"The use of restrooms and locker rooms are determined on a case-by-case basis. The goal is to ensure that all students feel safe and comfortable. Plans for accommodation for restroom and locker room use are made in consultation with school building administrators, the Title IX coordinator, and superintendent in compliance with state and federal law. This approach is consistent with guidance from the National School Boards Association and the Minnesota School Boards Association. Providing privacy for all students is an important consideration.

"The Minnesota Supreme Court held in Goins v. West Group “that the Minnesota Human Rights Act neither requires nor prohibits restroom designation according to self-image of gender or according to biological gender."

"In permitting the student to use the boys restrooms and locker room consistent with his gender identity, the District surpassed what Minnesota law prescribes. Information regarding individual students is considered private student data and the district is not allowed to comment on such information. Anoka-Hennepin is confident our actions conform with state and federal law.".

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