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Pennsylvania school district refuses to change policy on transgender students

Say it will announce transgender male student by his 'legal' female birth name at graduation
Monday, May 6, 2013
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RED LION, Pa. – The Red Lion Area School District (RLASD) has refused to change its policy regarding transgender candidates for prom court, nor will it agree to allow transgender students to use a name at graduation to match their gender identity, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

In a letter from the school district’s solicitor, the Red Lion School district said it would read the “legal name” of a transgender student at graduation, and not his chosen male name by which he identifies.

Issak Wolfe

RLASD’s treatment of its transgender students became an issue last month after Issak Wolfe, was denied the chance to run for prom king when his principal placed his female birth name in the column for “prom queen,” despite repeated requests to be listed in accordance with his gender identity.

On April 25, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Pennsylvania sent a letter on behalf of Wolfe, asking among other things, that the school allow Wolfe to attend graduation wearing a black cap and gown for boys, as opposed to the yellow cap and gown mandated for girls, and have his male name read at the ceremony.

The letter also asked that the school adopt a policy to allow students to run for prom court in accordance with their gender identity, as well as a broader nondiscrimination policy protecting transgender students in the district.

In his response, the school district’s solicitor agreed to allow Issak to wear a black cap and gown but denied the rest of his requests. The school said it would announce Wolfe by his female birth name instead.

Wolfe has gone by Issak since the summer before his junior year of high school, and his family, friends, and most of his teachers call him by that name.

Now a senior who turned 18 a few weeks ago, Wolfe said he plans to legally change his name, but that process, which involves a court hearing, cannot be completed in time for graduation next month.

“There is absolutely no legitimate reason for the school to refuse to read Issak’s male name at graduation,” said Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “Their failure to do so shows the same lack of sensitivity they exhibited during Issak’s attempt to run for prom king and knowingly mars what should be a happy occasion for Issak and his family.”

Wolfe plans to take his case to the RLASD school board at their next meeting on Thursday, May 16.

“It’s a shame the school district won’t adopt common-sense policies that would protect other transgender students down the line,” said Leslie Cooper, staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project. “All students should feel welcome at school and accepted for who they are.”

The ALCU has previously threatened legal action against the school district if it refuses to meet its demands, including calling Wolfe by his chosen name at graduation.

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