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A look back at the lawsuit against Minnesota’s largest school district for discriminating against a transgender student

3/30/2021 12:49:41 PM

This month, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights (MDHR) reached a final milestone in the lawsuit against the Anoka-Hennepin School District: a settlement agreement with the district requiring structural change. The agreement ends the lawsuit so we look at key moments in the case from the past two years.

Background: The Anoka-Hennepin School District and School Board forced N.H., a transgender student, to use a segregated locker room based solely on his gender identity and then threatened to discipline him if he did not use the segregated locker room. This violated the Minnesota Human Rights Act, which was the first state law in the country to prohibit gender identity discrimination.

February 25, 2019

N.H. and his mother, represented by Gender Justice and the ACLU of Minnesota, initially filed the lawsuit.

March 26, 2019

MDHR filed to join the lawsuit against the Anoka-Hennepin School District and School Board. 

“We filed to join this lawsuit because equal access to public schools for all students, including transgender and gender nonconforming students, is a civil right protected by the Minnesota Human Rights Act,” explained Deputy Commissioner Irina Vaynerman at the time of filing. 

August 6, 2019

A district court ruled that MDHR can join the lawsuit. 

In its ruling, the Court noted that it permitted MDHR to join because the Department is seeking systemic relief, such as requesting that Anoka-Hennepin revise its policies and procedures, train its staff, and report about compliance with the revised policies. 

September 28, 2020

In a landmark decision, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled that Minnesota schools must allow students to use locker rooms that align with their gender identity under the Minnesota Human Rights Act. 

In its powerful opinion, the Court recognized "students should not be required to 'shop' among schools and districts to obtain a discrimination-free education.” 

March 10, 2021

MDHR and N.H., represented by Gender Justice and the ACLU of Minnesota, reached a /mdhr/assets/Anoka%20Hennepin%20Settlement%20Agreement%20Redacted_tcm1061-473857.pdfsettlement agreement with Anoka-Hennepin requiring the district to make changes to ensure transgender and gender nonconforming students are safe and welcome at school. 

The agreement, in part, requires Anoka-Hennepin to: 

  • Implement a policy to allow every student to use facilities consistent with their gender identity. 
  • Train school board members, district officials, teachers, staff, and students on this policy. 
  • Report to MDHR any alleged violations of this policy. 
  • Add a statement to their website and student handbook that affirms students of all gender identities are valued and welcome. 

As the state’s civil rights enforcement agency, MDHR is committed to using all available tools, including litigation, to build a world where everyone can lead lives full of dignity and joy, free from discrimination. 

If you experienced or witnessed discrimination based on your gender identity and/or sexual orientation, report discrimination online or by calling 1-833-454-0148. 

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