A Mississippi judge ruled in favor of a school district that told a transgender girl she had to dress as a boy to attend her high school graduation.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit Thursday against the Harrison County School District on behalf of the student and her parents after Harrison Central Principal Kelly Fuller and the The girl, who has not been publicly identified, was allegedly told by school district superintendent Mitchell King. her, that she must dress in male presentation clothes at the graduation ceremony, even though she is a transgender girl.
US District Judge Taylor McNeel in Gulfport on Friday sided with the school district and denied the ACLU’s complaint, according to court documents. McNeel was appointed to his post by former President Donald Trump, a Republican who has spoken out against transgender rights in the past.
The ruling comes as schools across the country find themselves at the center of the debate over how transgender minors should be treated.
LGBTQ+ advocates say schools must respect students’ gender identity and that policies must be enacted to protect the rights of transgender youth. The Conservatives, on the other hand, have passed laws targeting the rights of transgender people, including gender-affirming care for those under 18. According to the ACLU, at least 490 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced in state legislatures this year.
The 17-year-old student, identified only by her initials LB, was told she couldn’t participate in her graduation while wearing a dress and heels, according to the complaint filed by the ACLU. Instead, school district officials said she is to wear a white button-down shirt, black dress pants, black dress shoes and a tie or bowtie.
The complaint wrote that despite the student and her parents expressing their opposition to the school district’s restrictions, officials “refused to back down from their last-minute decision.” The student has worn dresses and skirts throughout her high school experience, including in classes and at school-sponsored events and extracurricular activities, the complaint added.
“The defendants have not offered any reason that could justify the severe and continuous
deprivation of Claimants’ constitutional and legal rights to freedom from gender
discrimination,” the complaint says.
news week reached out to the Harrison County School District and the ACLU for comment via email.
As a result of the ruling, the student will no longer participate in her graduation ceremony, according to the Associated Press. Linda Morris, an attorney with the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project, told the AP that the decision “is as disappointing as it is absurd.”
“Our client is being shamed and humiliated for explicitly discriminatory reasons, and her family is being denied a unique milestone in her daughter’s life,” Morris said. “No one should be forced to miss graduation because of their gender.”
According to the AP, school district attorney Wynn Clark argued on behalf of the district that participating in the ceremony is voluntary and not constitutionally protected for any student.