Transgender youth discrimination is the latest front in fight for civil rights

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul led a coalition of 16 attorneys general that filed an amicus brief supporting schools’ ability to protect the privacy of transgender students who have shared their identity with school staff.

Joining in filing Raoul’s brief were the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

The brief is filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit in Foote et al. v. Ludlow School Committee et al. and argues in support of the Ludlow, Massachusetts school district’s practice of only sharing information on a pupil’s transgender or gender-nonconforming identity with parents if the student consents.

The U.S. Department of Education enforces laws such as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA) but puritanical extremists want to require school officials to intrude on student privacy and expose them.

“Public school officials in Ludlow, Massachusetts enacted a gender-identity policy that excludes parents from any knowledge or involvement in key decisions regarding their children’s care, blatantly violating parents’ fundamental right to direct their kids’ upbringing, health care, and education,” according to Alliance Defending Freedom, a right-wing group involved in the case.

The Alliance Defending Freedom has argued that religious liberty protects the rights of anyone to impose their beliefs on others and as a license to discriminate.

“The case involves actions taken by teachers and staff to support the well-being of two students, including using the students’ requested names and pronouns and waiting to discuss their gender expression at school with parents until the students themselves were ready to do so,” according to GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), a civil rights organization.

By affirming and supporting students in this way, the school was meeting its obligation to provide a safe and equal educational environment for all students. Years of research show that LGBTQ+-supportive school policies create better outcomes for all students

The school district’s motion to dismiss the parents’ case was argued before the U.S. District Court in Springfield on October 17. The U.S. District Court in Springfield dismissed the parents’ case. That ruling is now on appeal at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.

“Too many transgender students face bullying and discrimination on a daily basis, leading to lower self-esteem and increased risks of self-harm,” Raoul said. “During Pride Month and throughout the year, I will continue to partner with attorneys general from across the country to protect transgender youth and stand against hate and bigotry directed at the LGBTQ+ community.”

In their brief, the attorneys general argue that requiring schools to share information about students’ gender identity with parents against students’ wishes would cause a number of harms, including undermining the trust between students and teachers, creating impracticable administrative burdens for schools, and improperly inserting school officials into private conversations that should take place within the family unit.

The brief calls on the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals to affirm a lower court decision dismissing the lawsuit against Ludlow Public Schools.

According to research published and aggregated by The Trevor Project and highlighted in Raoul’s brief, LGBTQ+ youth who report the presence of trusted adults in their school have higher self-esteem than those without access to a trusted adult, including among those who lack support from their family. And LGBTQ+ youth who found their school and home to be affirming reported lower rates of attempting suicide.

The case is only the latest legal action concerning the rights of transgender and LGBTQ+ youth.

A federal judge recently shot down a Florida rule prohibiting Medicaid coverage of gender-affirming health care as unconstitutional.

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to intervene in an ongoing case involving a challenge to West Virginia’s state law banning transgender students from participating in girls’ sports teams at school.

In addition, LGBTQ+ students are fighting legal battles against discrimination, opposing an Indiana school district’s efforts to bar a transgender pupil from using a restroom consistent with the student’s gender identity, and contesting Florida’s controversial “Don’t Say Gay” law, which limits classroom discussions and has serious implications for LGBTQ+ students.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in America continue to face discrimination in their daily lives.

While some states work to pass laws to protect LGBTQ people, we continue to see state legislatures advancing bills every year that target transgender people, limit local protections, and allow the use of religion to discriminate.

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