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Transgender student’s discrimination suit goes before Maine’s high court

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

BANGOR, Maine — Maine’s highest court heard arguments Wednesday over whether transgender students can use the bathroom of their choice, and the girl at the heart of the case said she hoped justices would recognize the right of children to attend school without being “bullied” by peers or administrators.

Nicole Maines, now 15, watched lawyers argue over whether her rights were violated when the Orono school district required her to use a staff bathroom after there was a complaint about her using the girls’ bathroom.

Robert F. Bukaty, AP
Transgender student Nicole Maines, center, with her father Wayne Maines, left, and brother Jonas, outside the Penobscot Judicial Center, Wednesday, June 12, 2013, in Bangor, Maine.

Maines said after the hearing in Bangor that she hopes the Supreme Judicial Court will ensure no one else experiences what she went though.

“I hope they understood how important it is for students to be able to go to school and get an education and have fun and make friends, and not have to worry about being bullied by students or the administration, and to be accepted for who they are,” said Maines, who now attends a high sc hool in southern Maine.

Her family and the Maine Human Rights Commission sued in 2009 over the school’s actions, but a state judge ruled that the school district acted within its discretion. Maines is a biological male who from an early age identified as a girl.

At issue is whether the school violated the Maine Human Rights Act, which bars discrimination based on sex or sexual orientation. State law also requires separate bathrooms for boys and girls in schools.

Melissa Hewey, lawyer for the school and school district, said afterward it should be up to the Legislature to clarify the issue.

“To the extent that the people in Maine decide that this law in Maine should be changed, then that should be done. But right now the law is what it is, and our school district didn’t violate it,” she said.

The case goes beyond just the bathroom issue to the broader question of what’s best for transgender students, said Jennifer Levi, director of Transgender Ri ghts Project for the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders.

“At the core of this case is whether the promise of equal educational opportunities for transgender students is realized,” she said.

It’s a topic that school administrators are grappling with nationwide. A similar lawsuit is playing out in Colorado, where the parents of a 6-year-old transgender girl are suing their school district for trying to make her use a separate bathroom.

Policies about transgender adults are still evolving, and the thinking about how to handle children who identify with the gender opposite of the one they’re born with is even more complex.

Last year, the American Psychiatric Association removed “gender identity disorder” from its list of mental health ailments. And the Maine Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics filed a brief urging that transgender children be allowed to use the bathroom of their choice.

School officials initially allowed Nicole Maines to use the girls’ bathroom in her school, but the policy was altered after the grandfather of a fifth-grade boy complained to school officials. Maines’ attorneys said she felt like she was singled out by having to use the staff bathroom.

“In her owns words, she said it was like being picked out of a crowd of students and being told, ‘They’re the normal students, and you’re not,’” said Levi, who argued the case for the family.

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14 more reader comments:

  1. I got all the way to the bottom of the article to try to figure out who issued the complaint thinking it was a girl’s parents. But it was the grandfather of a male student. Um…why is a boy complaining? Why is this even an issue? Do people think she is cross dressing to get a free peek? GAH! I wish people could just be people and not have to be so segmented!

    Posted on Wednesday, June 12, 2013 at 1:43pm
  2. thats really fucked up if i could find her on here i would add her this is to wrong for adults to do this shit to a kid

    Posted on Wednesday, June 12, 2013 at 1:46pm
  3. Won’t it be nice when the issues of equality are no longer an issue & all can live together without discrimination in any way? I want race, gender, sexuality or any other difference to be not an issue at all. We’re better than that, or we should be. I’m white, straight, old (70) & am so fortunate that I’ve never been part of the hate group. I hope to see equality in every way during my lifetime.

    Posted on Wednesday, June 12, 2013 at 1:51pm
  4. Stay strong and keep smiling because you are beautiful and never let anyone tell you otherwise!!! YOU WERE BORN THIS WAY!!!

    Posted on Wednesday, June 12, 2013 at 2:19pm
  5. personally i would not want to use a restroom where a male shares it because he thinks and wants to be a female..

    Posted on Wednesday, June 12, 2013 at 2:55pm
  6. Just sharing what’s going on in my neighborhood.

    Posted on Wednesday, June 12, 2013 at 3:17pm
  7. You mean a female who happens to have the wrong body.

    Posted on Wednesday, June 12, 2013 at 3:42pm
  8. I hope she wins.

    Posted on Wednesday, June 12, 2013 at 4:30pm
  9. What’s it going to hurt? If you’re afraid of being stared at while you do your business, you don’t have to be the opposite sex (or even homosexual…) to get off on staring at someone in the bathroom…

    Posted on Wednesday, June 12, 2013 at 5:05pm
  10. NO Martin..unless the genes make mistakes in makeing a human a male or female with genitals accordingly. to me gender assined rr are for categorization..and it’s my right as a female born female to not want to be in the same rr as a male because he believes he was born in the wrong body

    Posted on Wednesday, June 12, 2013 at 5:19pm
  11. not sure why the parent of a boy complained other than hatred, but still the other students have a right to NOT have someone of the opposite gender in their bathroom. I know personally I wouldn’t want a female in the mens room and I certainly wouldn’t want a boy in the restroom with my neice. I think that the school option was valid for them. I have a female friend who lives as a man but physically is a woman. if she went in the mens room she’s gonna set herself up to get beaten or worse. it’s a shame but that’s the way it is. you have to balance the individuals rights against infringing on those of others.

    Posted on Wednesday, June 12, 2013 at 5:23pm
  12. The grandfather of a fellow student, who is male, complains? She is using the girls’ room. I guess none of the girls minded her enough to even mention it to parents. It really shouldn’t be a big deal. It’s not a “slippery slope” thing, like, eventually high school kids can go in any bathroom, and they’ll be having sex in there, or something. That grandparent must be a dirty old man.

    Posted on Wednesday, June 12, 2013 at 6:16pm
  13. I was afraid to use the boys’ rooms in high school, and never went to gym but what I could count on one hand. You can’t say that other students should be, what, afraid? Afraid of what? That young transgender student is the one who should be afraid. Afraid of being bullied by the girls, and boys, of some parents who fill their kids’ heads’ with opinions based on bullshit.

    Posted on Wednesday, June 12, 2013 at 6:26pm
  14. my thoughts exactly!

    Posted on Thursday, June 13, 2013 at 3:40am