Transgender student wins $300K settlement from Anoka-Hennepin School District

The student was forced to change in a segregated locker room at Coon Rapids High School.

A transgender student who was forced to change in a segregated locker room while competing on the boys swim team has won a $300,000 settlement from Anoka-Hennepin School District.

The settlement was announced Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union, who joined the family of Nick H. (second name withheld for safety reasons) and the Minnesota Department of Human Rights in suing the district over his treatment at Coon Rapids High School in 2016.

Nick had been allowed to use the boys locker room for swim for several months, having come out as transgender shortly before his freshman year started in 2015.

However, in 2016 the Coon Rapids High School Board prohibited him from using the boys locker room, and he was threatened with discipline if he did. Instead, he was forced to change in a segregated changing room that no other student would use, which he said led to bullying and threats.

The school district has agreed to a $300,000 payout to Nick as well as agreeing to introduce a series of policy reforms to prevent this from happening again. These changes will include reaffirming its commitment to comply with the Minnesota Human Rights Act, eliminating any segregated facilities for transgender students, allowing students to use facilities consistent with their gender identity, and introducing a complaints procedure for transgender students.

Nick H., top right, won the settlement from Anoka-Hennepin School District.

Nick H., top right, won the settlement from Anoka-Hennepin School District.

It must also ensure all school board members, staff and students have received training on these policies.

"This sends a strong message to school districts throughout the state: it's unconstitutional to treat trans students differently from other students," said ACLU-MN's David McKinney, noting that such districts that do so "will pay a price."

Speaking at the announcement Tuesday, Nick said that he didn't back the suit to improve his own position, but to make the "school district and board understand that how they treated me was wrong, and to make things better for the next generation of students."

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He spoke of the past several years as being as a "hard experience," and at times  "painful and embarrassing."

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.

Last March, the school district issued a statement defending its locker room and restroom policies, claiming they complied with state and federal guidelines.

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