Lambda Legal Warns South Carolina School District that Transgender Student Suspension Could Lead to Lawsuit

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February 17, 2016

Lambda Legal sent a letter to the Horry County School District today urging school officials to reverse their decision to suspend a transgender student and to adopt inclusive bathroom policies that respect the gender identities of its students and are in line with federal law, after news reports that a transgender student was suspended from Socastee High School for using the bathroom that matches his gender identity.

Beth Littrell, Senior Attorney at Lambda Legal, said:

Our schools’ first job is to provide safe and affirming environments for all our children to learn and thrive. For a student to have to withdraw from school because of discriminatory bathroom policies is appalling. Each day that Horry County School District refuses to respect this young man’s gender identity is another day that all students do not have a safe, respectful environment in which to learn. Instead of suspending a student using the bathroom between classes, Horry County School District should protect the privacy concerns and respect the gender identity of each student and adopt inclusive, nondiscriminatory policies. Failure to do so could cut off federal funds and land it in court.

Know Your Rights: Bathrooms and Locker Rooms

Across the country, schools and school districts have adopted respectful nondiscriminatory policies for their transgender students, and instead of turmoil, administrators, teachers, and coaches have witnessed thriving and active and engaged students. We welcome the opportunity to speak with the student, his family, and the school district about the law and rights of transgender students.

Lambda Legal sent a letter today to Horry County School District Superintendent Rick Maxey and Socastee High School Principal Dr. Paul Browning to make clear the school district’s legal responsibility, according to Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972 and Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, to respect the gender identity of all its students and to not discriminate against students on the basis of gender identity.

An excerpt from the letter:

The refusal to respect students’ gender identities embarrasses and demeans those students. It prevents them from having equal opportunities to learn and participate at school… Marginalizing transgender students by requiring them to use bathrooms that are not accessible to their classrooms or that unnecessarily single them out for unequal treatment and safety concerns is unacceptable. Finally, please be advised that school discipline for “insubordination” or “disruption” for exercising a legal right is equally unlawful: “School officials may not punish indirectly, through the guise of insubordination, what they may not punish directly.”

Read the press release.