Mississippi school dress code illegal and unfair to transgender students, ACLU says

Transgender and gender non-conforming students at a Mississippi high school were unfairly targeted because of the school district’s gender-specific dress code, the American Civil Liberties Union says in a statement. complaint filed Wednesday with the U.S. Department of Education.

The advocacy organization, which filed suit on behalf of the mother of a transgender student, said the Harrison County School District’s dress code policy violates Title IX, a 1972 federal law that prohibits schools and colleges that accept federal funds from discriminating against people on the basis of sex.

The Mississippi School dress code The policy for the 2023-2024 school year states that students must adhere to “dress consistent with their biological sex” and that boys must wear shorts or pants and girls must wear dresses or skirts.

In practice, this policy has had harmful and humiliating consequences for both transgender and gender non-conforming cisgender girls, the complaint alleges.

In March, administrators at Harrison Central High School blocked a 16-year-old transgender girl, identified as AH in the complaint, from wearing a dress to a regional band’s concert. The school’s principal, Kelly Fuller, told AH she couldn’t “represent our school dressed like that” and gave her the choice of changing into “boys’ clothes” or being hung up. school and give up participating in the concert.

The ACLU also claimed that AH was harassed while using the girls’ restroom and that when she attempted to use the boys’ restroom as a last resort, a teacher yelled at her.

“I am deeply concerned about discriminatory practices within the Harrison County School District that have unfairly targeted my daughter, as well as other students,” Kimberly Hudson, AH’s mother, said in a statement. “Transgender and gender non-conforming students should not be forced to choose between participating in school events or remaining true to their gender identity. »

The school district also banned cisgender girls who prefer masculine clothing from participating in school activities. A senior girl was stopped from walking across the graduation stage, moments before her turn, because she was wearing pants. The district blocked another high school student’s portrait from appearing in the school yearbook because she was wearing a tuxedo.

Transgender and gender nonconforming students should not be forced to choose between participating in school events or remaining true to their gender identity.Kimberly Hudson, mother of a transgender student

The suit filed Wednesday is the civil rights group’s second attempt to challenge the school district’s discriminatory dress code. The ACLU sued the district last year for preventing a senior transgender girl, LB, from wearing a dress at her graduation ceremony. A federal judge in Gulfport later confirmed the school’s dress code policy based on gender.

“If I didn’t wear a dress, I wouldn’t go,” LB said during her testimony. “I was shocked, disgusted and I didn’t expect it. I thought I would be allowed.

The complaint filed with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights comes just weeks after the Biden administration updated its latest changes to Title IX to explicitly include gender identity categories and of sexual orientation. The ministry made these changes after increasing pressure LGBTQ+ and women’s rights organizations and said last month that the changes were necessary to make schools safe and welcoming for all students.

The Harrison County School District did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The new guidelines, set to take effect Aug. 1, also restore protections for student survivors of sexual assault and harassment that Donald Trump rolled back during his presidency.

Trump vowed to once again roll back protections for transgender students “first day” – and alluded to a series of other decrees he could jeopardize LGBTQ+ rights if he is elected president again in November.

The Title IX amendments now directly conflict with Mississippi’s transgender bathrooms law, which prohibits a student from using facilities that do not correspond to the sex assigned to them at birth. The law was signed on Monday.

A number of other Republican-led states have enacted similar laws and restrictions on students using their chosen name and pronouns in class.

Dozens of Republican officials have rejected the Biden administration’s update to federal civil rights law and have pursued various legal avenues to try to enforce the state’s anti-trans policies. In late April, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton for follow-up the U.S. Department of Education, saying in a press release that the Biden administration was destroying protections for women in schools by “demanding compliance with a radical gender ideology.”

Days later, Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed a decree requiring schools to continue to enforce state laws prohibiting transgender students from using restrooms and joining sports teams that match their gender identity. The Republican governor wrote that the Title IX rules are “simply ridiculous” and “will lead to men competing unfairly in women’s sports.”

This week, four state attorneys general (in Kansas, Utah, Wyoming and Alaska) and the conservative organizations Moms for Liberty, Young America’s Foundation and Female Athletes United filed additional legal action over the regulations. The suit is supported by the Alliance defending freedom, a conservative legal organization that contributed to the overthrow Deer. v. Wade two years ago and has been at the forefront of legal opposition to trans athletes in women’s sports and youth access to gender-affirming care.