A group of female students and their parents is suing the Virginia School District in Minnesota, saying the schools' compliance with federal transgender locker room use laws led to serious distress.
The federal lawsuit comes from Alliance Defending Freedom, on behalf of the group of students and parents (which has dubbed itself Privacy Matters). The complaint was posted online – you can read it here.
It says five female students at Virginia High School suffered "visible distress, including tearfulness, isolating behavior, and anger" because of the actions of a male student who identifies as female. Referred to as Student X for privacy reasons, that student's behavior (according to the lawsuit) includes:
- Asking one girl her bra size, and suggesting they should trade body parts.
- Dancing to "music with sexually explicit lyrics" while in the locker room, including twerking and grinding. And lifting up their skirt to reveal their underwear.
- Changing their clothes by girls who were trying to find privacy away from that student.
The consequence of that law, the suit says, was "adolescent girls, in the midst of disrobing within their private locker room, found an adolescent male in their midst."
John Colosimo, the attorney for the Virginia School District, told BringMeTheNews they have not been served the lawsuit yet (and have only read what's been published in the news), so he can't comment on specifics.
Where the locker room rules come from
The school and district are following guidelines laid out by the White House earlier this year, which says transgender students must be able to use the bathroom or locker room they identify with without restriction. If a school or district doesn't comply, it could lose federal funding.
Colosimo said the district has been complying with the law.
The Privacy Matters group is also suing the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Justice. The suit accuses the federal government of holding hostage money to "advance an unlawful agenda."
Five of the plaintiffs are juvenile girls. Two of them won't return to Virginia High School this fall, so they don't have to continue using the same locker rooms as Student X, the complaint says.
The lawsuit also claims some of the girls missed class or practice time trying to find a locker room they were comfortable in, and two stopped using restrooms at all during school hours, instead holding it until the end of the day.
The parents claims to have notified the district about Student X's behavior, or the impact on their daughters. But Colosimo says that's not the case.
"I can tell you that no administrator with the school district had ever been notified by any of the students alleged in the article that I've read to have had their concerns or rights violated," he said. "We knew nothing about it. They never reported it."
Transgender students in high school
Pew Research published a study from October of 2015 that looked at teenagers' romantic lives, and part of it included asking the teens about their gender identity.
In the study, 3 percent of teens (age 13-17) identified themselves as transgender, while 2 percent refused to answer the question. The remaining 95 percent identified themselves as not transgender.
In Minnesota, an anti-bullying law called the Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act specifically says students cannot be bullied for their sexual orientation or gender identity. That language was a point of contention when the bill was being debated.
After the White House issued its directive, Minnesota Department of Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius applauded the move, saying it reinforces what they've believed all along.
StopBullying.gov says students who identify as gay, lesbian, transgender or bisexual are more likely to be bullied than those who do not. The CDC says those students are at greater risk of "suicidal thoughts and behaviors, suicide attempts, and suicide." One study found LGBTQ students in grades 7-12 were more than twice as likely to have attempted suicide than heterosexual peers.