Court: Locker room segregation of trans student violates law

Transgender students are entitled to use the locker room that matches their identity, the Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed in a decision published Monday. The court found it to be a violation of both the Minnesota Human Rights Act and the Minnesota Constitution for school districts to segregate transgender students from their peers in locker rooms.

In February of 2019, the civil rights group Gender Justice and the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota argued that the Anoka-Hennepin School District violated a student’s rights by barring N.H., a member of the boys’ swimming team, from using the locker room that matched his identity.

In that case, the district directed the student to use a gender neutral changing space, all by himself. The district threatened the student with discipline if he did not use the space.

The Minnesota Human Rights Act’s education provision “protects the rights of any student to use locker rooms without discrimination.”

“It is difficult to imagine how requiring only the transgender student to use a separate locker room would not stigmatize that student,” Court of Appeals Judge Peter Reyes wrote in the ruling.

“I never want any student to experience the discrimination and cruelty I experienced from the adults at my school," N.H. sadi, in a statement submitted by the ACLU-MN. "It means a lot to see that courts protect transgender students like me. Today's decision makes it very clear that segregating trans students doesn't just dehumanize us, it violates our legal rights."

At the time, the district said locker room usage is determined on a case-by-case basis

"Anoka-Hennepin Schools is committed to providing a safe and respectful learning environment and to providing an education that supports all students and families, including transgender and gender nonconforming students,” the district wrote. "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”