Transgender student sues Wisconsin school district for discrimination

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TODD RICHMOND, Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A transgender student has filed a federal lawsuit alleging a Wisconsin school district won’t let him use the boys’ restrooms and repeatedly uses his female birth name, violating federal anti-discrimination laws and the U.S. Constitution.

The Transgender Law Center and the civil rights law firm Relman, Dane and Colfax PLLC filed the lawsuit Tuesday in Milwaukee against the Kenosha school district. The filing states Ashton Whitaker, a 16-year-old student at Tremper High School, was designated a girl on his birth certificate but began identifying as a boy in middle school.

The lawsuit alleges the district has denied him access to boys’ restrooms and directed staff to monitor his restroom usage, forcing him and other transgender students to wear green wristbands to help staff recognize them. As a result, Whitaker drastically reduced his liquid intake, aggravating a medical condition that causes him to faint, and suffered stress migraines.

Teachers also continue to call him by his female birth name, he had to room with girls on an orchestra trip to Europe and the principal initially denied him the ability to run for junior prom king, telling him he could run only for prom queen, according to the lawsuit. School administrators relented only after his classmates protested, the lawsuit noted.

The district’s actions violate Title IX, a federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, as well as the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection guarantees, the lawsuit argues.

Whitaker said in a news release that the district’s actions have made his life miserable and he’s worried about how he’ll navigate his upcoming senior year.

A message left at the school district on Wednesday morning wasn’t immediately returned.

Wisconsin is one of several conservative-led states suing President Barack Obama‘s administration over its directive to public schools to let transgender students use bathrooms that match their gender identity. Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin tried to pass a bill during the 2015-16 legislative session that would have made it the first state in the nation to force public school students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond to their birth gender. The measure went nowhere.

At least 13 states and the District of Columbia prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity in schools. Hundreds of school districts, from Anchorage, Alaska, and Tucson, Arizona, to Fairfax County, Virginia and Chicago, have adopted similar protections.

At least two other transgender students have filed lawsuits similar to Whitaker’s seeking the right to use boys’ bathrooms and locker rooms.

Gavin Grimm filed a lawsuit in Virginia seeking the right to use the boys’ bathroom at his high school. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Grimm in April, ruling the judge who had rejected his claim ignored the Obama administration’s rule. The school board has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take the case.

A 14-year-old Maryland middle school student filed a federal lawsuit on Tuesday alleging school officials have barred him from using the boys’ restrooms and locker rooms.

On the other side of the issue, dozens of families filed a federal lawsuit in May to stop Township High School District 211 in suburban Chicago from allowing a transgender student who was born a boy but identifies as a girl from using the girls’ locker room.

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