RJ Appleberry, a former student in Missouri’s Blue Springs school district, has been awarded $4 million by a jury. Appleberry sued the district, alleging sex discrimination because he is transgender.
The former student graduated in 2018, but the district’s actions were so egregious the jury not only awarded him $175,000 in damages, they tacked on the extra four million as punitive damages – plus the district has to pay his legal costs.
Appleberry transitioned at 10-years-old. He changed his name in 2010 and his birth certificate was amended to male to reflect his true identity in 2014. He sued in 2015 when the district wouldn’t relent in their discriminatory policies that targeted him specifically.
He was forced to use separate single-use bathrooms and told him he couldn’t use the boys’ restroom. Under Missouri law, Appleberry is recognized as male.
While he participated in physical education and sports as a boy, he wasn’t allowed to use the locker room with his teammates. School authorities debated and based official decisions based on his genitalia while considering the topic taboo for other students.
“Upon information and belief, Defendants do not speculate, inspect, or otherwise inquire as to the genitalia of other male students,” his lawsuit said. “Defendants have discriminated and continue to discriminate against Plaintiff R.M.A. based on his sex.”
He was denied access to facilities in both middle and high school. He stopped participating in school sports his freshman year when he was told he still wouldn’t be treated like his teammates.
The decisions made him feel inferior to the other boys, he said. And the jury agreed.
The school district has refused to admit their fault, stretching out court proceedings for years as the case wound its way to the state supreme court and back down again.
“The district disagrees with the verdict and will be seeking appropriate relief from the trial court and court of appeals if necessary,” a spokesperson for the school district said after the verdict was announced.