Transgender teen still waiting to find out if he can use locker room of choice

Nick Himley left Coon Rapids High School Wednesday afternoon alongside his friend Kenzie. Together they walked, smiled and laughed.

As they did, Himley seemed relieved to be winding down with a friend, after a long day of class and extracurricular activity. This afternoon, it was band practice.

Yet, with each step Himley takes, he grows more unsettled. The debate over transgender access continues in the nation's capital and in the Anoka-Hennepin School District.

“They don’t really answer your questions, they just kind of go around them,” the teen said of his experience with the board.

Himley’s mom, Jennifer Halpaus, received a response from the Anoka-Hennepin Schools Title IX coordinator via e-mail on Wednesday night. It’s a response she’s waited on for nearly a year. The message did not, however, include whether or not her transgender son will be allowed to access the boys locker room like he did his freshman year.

“It’s a long excruciating process,” Himley told Fox 9.

A concern that’s only grown since the Trump administration rolled back protections last week for transgender students, reversing federal guidance that required public schools to allow children to sue the bathrooms and locker rooms that matched their gender identities.

During an open session on Monday, the Anoka-Hennepin school board heard concerned alumni, parents and allies urge them to create a policy that allows transgender students like Himley to access bathrooms and locker rooms they identify with. The proposed policy would replace the district’s current case-by-case procedure.

“The longer they think about it, the more opinion they’re going to get in. Instead of facts,” Himley fears.

The sophomore tells Fox 9 he had few issues using the boys locker room while competing with the swim team last year.

“My peers accepted me, my teachers did, the only problems I got was from the school board and any upper staff members,” the teen said.

His mom has gone before the school board twice.
“I feel violated. That’s my kid they’re talking about,” Halpaus said of her frustration.

As it stands, the board has only held private meetings to discuss Himley’s case. Meetings he nor his mother were permitted to attend.

“I feel left out. I want to be in on the decision because they’re deciding what I’m going to do,” Himley said.

The sophomore hopes to dive back onto the boys' swim team after suffering a spinal issue over the summer. Cleared to swim again next year, he’s ready to work out.

“I get anxious about it because I’m starting gym in three weeks and I don’t know what I’m going to do,” Himley said after sharing photos of the gender neutral space he’s encouraged to use instead. A space he didn’t even know existed until Fox 9 first broadcast his story on Monday.

“It is a little isolating,” he said. “I feel like it should be for anyone who wants to use it, not just for gender non-conforming people.”

While uncertain, Himley maintains a level of optimism. The teen moves forward with hope the Anoka-Hennepin Schools board will take a step in an inclusive direction.

“I know multiple trans kids who go here so I’m just hoping for equality for the next generation.”

Anoka-Hennpin Schools’ representatives declined FOX 9’s request Wednesday for an on-camera interview.

In a statement, the communications representatives referred to guidance they received from Minnesota School Boards Association (MSBA):

“Our advice to school districts has not changed since our briefing on the issue last year: Work with parents and students at the local level to ensure a safe and nurturing environment for all students.

Supreme Court has accepted a case (Gloucester County School Board vs. Gavin Grimm) brought by a transgender student on appeal from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. A decision by the Supreme Court in this case should give schools a much better picture of what is required to address transgender students’ needs.

Oral arguments in the case are scheduled for March 28. The Supreme Court could send the case back to the Fourth Circuit for that court to address the issues in light of the federal government’s changed position.

MSBA will continue to follow these issues in the courts and will provide additional  information when available.”

While MSBA reports a separate transgender student policy would likely be premature until the issue is settled by the courts, advocates say that’s not true under the Minnesota Human Rights Act.

Himley and Halpaus are scheduled to meet with the school board to review their request on March 7th.