Story at a glance

  • The Anoka-Hennepin School District agreed to a settlement in a discrimination case brought by a transgender student.
  • The student, a member of the boys swim team at his school, was required to use segregated changing facilities, which he said led to bullying and harassment.
  • The school district is considered a “suicide contagion” area and has a history of anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination.

A Minnesota school district that was previously under federal oversight for anti-LGBTQ harassment is now paying $300,000 to a transgender student in a settlement over a discrimination case. 

“I never want any student to experience the discrimination and cruelty I experienced from the adults at my school,” Nick said in a release from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). “It means a lot to see the courts protect transgender students like me. Today’s settlement agreement makes it very clear that segregating transgender students doesn’t just dehumanize us, it violates our legal rights.”  

The Anoka-Hennepin School District also agreed to reform its policies to protect students of all gender identities in the settlement, which was brought in 2016 by the ACLU of Minnesota and Gender Justice on behalf of Nick, a transgender student on his school's swim team who was forced to use segregated changing facilities. At the time, the school was already the subject of a federal investigation over a climate of anti-LGBTQ+ harassment and discrimination after nine students committed suicide between 2009 and 2011. 


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"The Minnesota Court of Appeals has established clarity for transgender student access to locker rooms. Since the decision, Anoka-Hennepin has modified its policy and procedures as well as training of staff and students regarding student right of access to any and all facilities consistent with their gender identity. All legal issues have been resolved,” said the school district in a statement reported by local news outlets

As part of the settlement, the ACLU reported, the school board agreed to develop and train school board members, staff and students on a policy "to allow every student to use all facilities consistent with their gender identity that includes a complaint procedure and a prohibition on reprisals.” Current policies include the federally and state-required mandate of "equal educational opportunity regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, or handicapping condition," but the school has agreed to reaffirm its commitment to the Minnesota Human Rights Act.

“The district is committed to providing a safe and respectful learning environment for all students and families including transgender and gender-nonconforming students,” the district said in its statement, which highlighted the court’s acknowledgement that "we are sympathetic to all parties involved and readily acknowledge the task the school district faced as it sought to balance the privacy interests of all of its students while addressing issues that are of first impression in Minnesota." 


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Last July, the Supreme Court ruled that workplace protections established by the Civil Rights Act extended to the LGBTQ+ community, interpreting prohibitions against discrimination on the basis of "sex" to include "sexual orientation or gender identity." The Trump administration, however, claimed those same protections don't extend to students under Title IX and so educational programs and activities can still be restricted based on "biological sex." 

Not long after President Biden took office, he issued an executive order reversing the Department of Education's previous guidance, saying, "children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports." But lawmakers on the state level have introduced numerous bills restricting the rights of transgender students. 

“Over the past year, we’ve seen a growing wave of political attacks against the rights of transgender children to health care, education or even to play sports,” said Gender Justice Executive Director Megan Peterson in the release. “Students like Nick need and deserve the same acceptance as their classmates. Instead, far too many are being targeted for discrimination by adults who should be watching out for them. With this settlement, we hope to send a message that discrimination against trans students is not only wrong, it comes at a cost.”   


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Published on Mar 25, 2021