LA FERIA, Texas — As a senior at La Feria High School, Jeydon Loredo looked forward to his senior portrait appearing in his school’s yearbook.
The photo, of Jeydon dressed in a crisp tuxedo with his hair neatly combed, would forever serve as a reminder of one of his first major life achievements. But Jeydon, who is transgender, has now learned that his photo will not appear in the yearbook because it violates “community standards.”
According to Jeydon, who identifies as male, La Feria Independent School District Superintendent Rey Villarreal told his mother that his photograph would be included only if he wore traditional feminine attire, such as a drape or a blouse.
Villarreal, who has been on the job for four months, told South Texas News in late October that the decision regarding the photo was a “judgement call” that would likely rest with the school’s principal.
But Jeydon’s family says that Villarreal made the decision, not the school’s principal.
On Wednesday, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) demanded that the school district allow Jeydon to appear in his high school yearbook wearing a tuxedo or risk a federal lawsuit against the Texas school district.
The demand was made in cooperation with the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) after both organizations authored a letter of guidance earlier this month in an attempt to resolve the matter absent litigation, and after the school board refused to take action on an appeal by Jeydon at a public meeting Monday night, where Jeydon appeared with his mother and representatives from SPLC and HRC.
Jeydon had sent an email to the school board asking to be included in the agenda to address the board at its Nov. 11 meeting. He was not included, according to his attorney Alesdair Ittelson of the SPLC. Instead, Jeydon spoke during the open forum section of the meeting.
“Please allow my community to remember me, and to remember me the way I truly am, in the clothes that reflect me: Jeydon Loredo,” he asked the board.
“As school board members, you don’t get to decide whether transgender students receive the same rights as students who are not transgender, ” Ittelson told the board. “You must treat Jeydon equally and with the respect he deserves. The fact is, you must allow the tuxedo photo in the yearbook in order to remain in compliance with the law.”
The board later went into closed session, but no decision was made regarding Jeydon’s photo.
“I’ve lived here my whole life, and I’ve grown up with the kids here,” Jeydon said. “I’ve seen those in my community go through troubles, and denying my tuxedo photo would be a way for the district to forget me and everything I’ve brought to this community. The yearbook is for the students, not the faculty or the administration. It is a way for us to remember each other.”
The SPLC demand letter gives the school district one week to allow Jeydon’s photo to be included in the yearbook or face a federal lawsuit.
The Human Rights Campaign has also launched a national effort on it’s website encouraging it’s 1.5 million members to sign a petition demanding the school district to allow Jeydon’s photo to be published.
Attempts to reach out to school district officials went unanswered. Neither Villarreal or school board President Juan Broines returned calls seeking comment.