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State of Minnesota agrees, Anoka-Hennepin School District discriminated against a transgender student

Minnesota Department of Human Rights and Minnesota Attorney General seek to join lawsuit to ensure access to safe and welcoming schools for all students

3/26/2019 10:30:56 AM

SAINT PAUL, Minn. – The Minnesota Department of Human Rights, represented by Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, /mdhr/assets/Complaint%20in%20Intervention_tcm1061-377100.pdffiled today to join the lawsuit against the Anoka-Hennepin School District and School Board for violating the Minnesota Human Rights Act by discriminating against N.H., a transgender student. The Anoka-Hennepin School District and School Board, the largest district in the State, unlawfully segregated the student from his classmates by relegating him to a separate changing space, based solely on his gender identity. 

“What happened to my son was not OK,” said N.H.’s mother. “My interest has always been in trying to make things better for all Minnesota students. The Department of Human Rights and the Attorney General’s involvement sends a clear message to them that they are valued and deserve respect.” 

N.H. joined the boys’ swim team at Coon Rapids High School for the 2015-2016 school year and used the boys’ locker room without issue. However, during the summer of 2016, the district built an “enhanced privacy” boys’ locker room at the high school, which was entirely separate and segregated from the main boys’ locker room. In 2017, the district and school board required N.H. to use the “enhanced privacy” boys’ locker room, contrary to anti-discrimination provisions in the Minnesota Human Rights Act and N.H.’s wishes. In fact, the district even threatened to discipline N.H. if he did not use the segregated locker room.  

“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,” said Minnesota Department of Human Rights Deputy Commissioner Irina Vaynerman. “School districts should have policies and procedures that enable all students to thrive, free from discrimination. We stand proudly with transgender and gender nonconforming students across the State.”  

Anoka-Hennepin’s decision to ban N.H. from using the main boys’ locker room because he is transgender was unlawful and resulted in a hostile education environment that stigmatized N.H. and other transgender students. According to the Minnesota Department of Education’s 2016 Student Survey, 31 percent of transgender and gender nonconforming students in 9th and 11th grades reported elevated levels of bullying and harassment. 

“Everyone wants to live with dignity and respect. Being treated equally is one of the most important ways that we achieve that. Transgender people, however, are facing challenge after challenge in being treated equally, including in school. I’m proud to support the Department of Human Rights in making sure that transgender folks live free from discrimination,” said Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison.

Over the past several years, students have filed multiple claims of discrimination against the Anoka-Hennepin School District and School Board because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender expression. In 2011, after reports of harassment and following the suicide of four LGBTQ students, a lawsuit was filed against the school district and board. It asserted the district perpetuated a harmful and toxic environment for LGBTQ students. In 2012, the district was subject to a consent decree with the United States Department of Justice requiring them to take proactive measures to eliminate and prevent further instances of discrimination against LGBTQ students.

N.H. and his mother, represented by Gender Justice and the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota, initially filed this lawsuit on Feb. 25, 2019. Involvement in this case by the Department of Human Rights and Attorney General marks the second transgender discrimination lawsuit the State of Minnesota filed this month. On March 7, 2019, the Department of Human Rights and Attorney General filed suit against CSL Plasma for denying a transgender woman from donating her plasma because of her gender identity. 

“We will continue to be persistent and insistent that discrimination against any member of the transgender community is not tolerated in this State,” said Minnesota Department of Human Rights Deputy Commissioner Vaynerman.

If you believe you have been discriminated against in violation of the /mdhr/yourrights/mhra/index.jspMinnesota Human Rights Act, please contact MDHR’s enforcement unit at 651.539.1100, 1.800.657.3704 or online at /mdhr/news-community/faqs/filing-complaint/overview.jspmn.gov/mdhr/intake. For more information, please visit mn.gov/mdhr or follow the conversation on Twitter at @mnhumanrights.

Document: /mdhr/assets/Complaint%20in%20Intervention_tcm1061-377100.pdfComplaint in Intervention

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Minnesota Department of Human Rights, Communications Department 
Freeman Building, 625 Robert Street North, Saint Paul, MN 55155 
www.mn.gov/mdhrMDHR YouTube channel

Contact MDHR 
Taylor Putz, Executive Aide to the Commissioner 
651.226.4615 
Taylor.Putz@state.mn.us

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