ACLU, Basic Rights Oregon Defend Dallas School District Protections for Transgender Students
PORTLAND, Ore. - A federal judge yesterday dismissed a lawsuit that tried to dismantle protections for transgender students in Dallas, Oregon. The lawsuit sought to overturn the Dallas School District’s policy of allowing students to use restrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity. The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation (ACLU) and the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Oregon (ACLU of Oregon) intervened in the case earlier this year on behalf of Basic Rights Oregon, a statewide LGBTQ group, to defend the rights of transgender and nonbinary students in school.
“We are thrilled with the judge’s decision," said Brook Shelley, board chair at Basic Rights Oregon. “It sends a clear message to school districts that transgender students deserve the same access to a safe and affirming education as every other student. It also affirms the Dallas School District, which took necessary and legally required steps to affirm a transgender student in their school."
A small group of parents and students, acting through the organizations “Parents for Privacy” and “Parents Rights in Education,” filed a complaint last November against the Dallas School District and other state and federal officials for the district’s policy of protecting a transgender student from discrimination when using the locker room. The court wholly rejected their claims, finding schools are not only permitted, but required, to treat transgender students equally under the law. Similar lawsuits have been rejected by other courts around the country.
Gabriel Arkles, senior staff attorney at the ACLU, said these types of claims help no one and put transgender students at risk.
“The judge understood that transgender students just using restrooms and lockers like everyone else does not violate anyone’s rights. In fact, it would violate students’ rights to keep them out of the facilities their peers use just because they are transgender,” Arkles said. “These cases are a part of a nationwide trend targeting transgender young people, and we are proud to defend students’ safety, dignity, and access to education.”
Mat dos Santos, legal director at the Oregon affiliate of the ACLU, said the group would fight a similar lawsuit recently filed in Sutherlin, Oregon.
“We will continue to defend transgender students in Oregon from these harmful lawsuits,” dos Santos said. “All students deserve a safe and accepting learning environment, regardless of gender identity. We know that when transgender youth are allowed to show up as their true selves, they thrive and make meaningful contributions to the community. This makes schools better for everyone.”
In Oregon, state laws prohibit discrimination in education and public places based on gender identity. In 2016, the Oregon Department of Education wrote guidelines for Oregon public schools protecting transgender students. After the Trump administration rescinded federal guidelines protecting transgender students from bullying and harassment, Governor Kate Brown affirmed Oregon’s commitment to keeping the state’s education guidelines in place.
The Fierce Parents, a group of parents with Basic Rights Oregon who organize for the rights of transgender students, celebrated the decision which they called a win for Oregon transgender students. Colleen Yeager, a member of the group and parent of a seven-year-old transgender boy, said a supportive school environment helped her son flourish.
“My son is able to thrive in school because he has received, and continues to receive, the kind of support he does from his teachers, school administration, and school community,” Yeager said. “Their support has been instrumental in his ability to be himself, to just be a kid, and to be a productive, attentive student, and classroom contributor. This is why this judge’s decision is so important."
Counsel on the motion to intervene and the motion to dismiss include Mat dos Santos and Kelly Simon of the ACLU of Oregon; Gabriel Arkles and Shayna Medley-Warsoff of the ACLU; and Darin M. Sands and Kelsey Benedick of Lane Powell LLP.