California Attorney General Rob Bonta this week joined a multi-state amicus brief in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in support of the rights of transgender students in Doe vs. Mukwonago Area School District.
The case originates from Wisconsin and stems from a lawsuit challenging a Wisconsin school board’s policy that barred an 11-year-old transgender student from using the girls’ bathroom based on her assigned gender at birth.
The AG’s office called the school’s policy “part of a dangerous wave of discriminatory policies targeting transgender children.”
In its brief, the coalition explains that it believes the policy violates Title IX and the Equal Protection Clause and describes the serious harms that can result from “unlawful discrimination based on an individual’s identity. ”
“Policies that single out and discriminate against transgender and gender-nonconforming students have no place in the classroom,” said Attorney General Bonta.
“No student should have to turn to the courts to prove that they have the right to respect,” he explained. “As we continue to witness adults targeting the rights of vulnerable students and trying to undermine their rights and dignity, the coalition today stands in support of our LGBTQ+ student community across the country.”
In brief, the signatories noted that “Amici States strongly support the right of transgender people to live in dignity, free from discrimination, and have equal access to education, government-sponsored opportunities, etc. other life incidents, including equal access to school toilets.”
The signatories believe that “discrimination based on a person’s transgender status causes tangible economic, educational, emotional, and health harm.”
The amicus notes, “More than 1.6 million people in the United States, including approximately 300,000 youth between the ages of 13 and 17, identify as transgender.”
It continues, “Transgender youth experience levels of discrimination, violence, and harassment far beyond those experienced by their cisgender counterparts.
“The experiences of the Amici States and other jurisdictions show that policies and practices that ensure equal access to public facilities for transgender people—including access to common restrooms that are consistent with their gender identity—promote safe and inclusive school environments that benefit all,” the Amici continued.
A survey cited in the brief notes that, of LGBTQ students, 62.6 percent reported being “teased at, bullied, or treated poorly” at school in the past year, and more than half (55.6%) of those young people report being victimized, especially because of their sexual identity, gender identity, or gender expression.
“Discrimination against transgender youth—including denial of access to appropriate toilet facilities—can have serious health consequences,” they argue.
On the other hand, “policies that prevent transgender students from using sex-segregated facilities consistent with their gender identity are unnecessary and illegal.”
The amicus made a three-fold argument against the Mukwonago Area School District’s policy.
First, they argued, “The School District’s policy violates Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 by denying transgender males and females access to the same common restrooms that other males and females may use. ”
Second, they argue that the policy fails to “advance any legitimate interest, such as the protection of public safety or personal privacy,” and thus “its purpose is to stigmatize a particular group, which violates equal protection.”
Third, they argue that inclusive laws and policies produce important benefits and do not require large expenditures.
“The experiences of school administrators in many states across the country prove that such policies can be implemented fairly, simply, and effectively,” they argued.
They cited policies from the District of Columbia that require businesses to “provide access to and safe use of gender-segregated facilities,” where nudity in the presence of others is common, while also making accommodations that allow transgender individuals to use the facility “consistent with that individual’s gender identity or expression.”
They argued that “these are discriminatory bathroom policies rather than inclusive ones that raise privacy concerns.”
Furthermore, they added, “Such policies are more likely to create an unnecessary risk of violence against transgender people, whose physical appearance may differ from their sex assigned at birth and therefore likely to be perceived as using the ‘wrong’ toilet.
In short, they argue that “policies such as the one at issue here, which prevent transgender individuals from using a restroom consistent with their gender identity, are more likely to raise safety concerns and privacy concerns than inclusive policies.”
California, the brief notes, “has adopted protections against gender-identity discrimination in schools to address the harms suffered by transgender students, including students who do not drink and eat during the day at school to avoid using the bathroom.”
The California Attorney General stated, “Contrary to the Mukwonago Area School District’s policy, all California schools have been required since 2014 to allow students to use sex-segregated facilities consistent with their gender identity.”
The AG added, “At the California Department of Justice, we remain committed to ensuring a safe and inclusive learning environment that benefits everyone.”