A transgender student will receive a $300,000 settlement from the Anoka-Hennepin School District in Minnesota after having been prohibited from using the boys’ locker room during the swim team’s season in 2016.
The student, who is a girl but claims to identify as a boy, had participated on the boys’ swim team during that season but had been told to use a separate changing room, said the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which represents the student, known as Nick Himley.
In a press release Tuesday, the ACLU said the school district discriminated against Himley by requiring use of a separate changing room.
“This discrimination led to bullying and threats against his family, causing Nick emotional distress and harm,” ACLU stated.
We just wrapped up our press conference, talking about a major settlement for our client N.H. from the Anoka-Hennepin School District.
Bottom line: This is a huge win for N.H., and a huge win for transgender students.
— ACLU of Minnesota (@ACLUMN) March 23, 2021
“I never want any student to experience the discrimination and cruelty I experienced from the adults at my school,” Himley said in a statement. “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.”
As part of the settlement, the school district agreed to comply with the Minnesota Human Rights Act by allowing all students to use the facilities they say are consistent with their gender identity, rather than biological sex. The district also agreed to train board members, staff, and students regarding the policies.
ACLU-MN staff attorney David McKinney said in a statement:
Anoka-Hennepin’s mistreatment of Nick was unconstitutional and unnecessary, and we hope this settlement puts every other school district in Minnesota on notice that discrimination will not be tolerated. Our LGBTQ students, like all students, should have equal access to education, programs and extracurricular activities, not be ostracized based on their gender identity.
In September, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled a school district cannot bar students who claim to identify as the opposite sex from using bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity.
The court ruled a separate locker room based on sex is discriminatory, according to the Minnesota Human Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination based on race, religion, sexual orientation, and gender identity.
Here, the school district prohibited N.H., a transgender male, from using the boys’ main locker room. The school district constructed an additional enhanced-privacy locker room separate from the main facility and required N.H. to use it because he is transgender. Applying the plain language of the statute, we conclude that requiring a transgender student to use a different locker-room facility because of his sexual orientation is discrimination under Minn. Stat. § 363A.13, subd. 1.
As Fox9 News reported at the time, the school district defended itself with the statement it is “committed to providing a safe and respectful learning environment and to providing an education that supports all students and families, including transgender and gender nonconforming students.”
The district added:
The use of restrooms and locker rooms are determined on a case-by-case basis. The goal is to ensure that all students feel safe and comfortable. Plans for accommodation for restroom and locker room use are made in consultation with school building administrators, the Title IX coordinator, and superintendent in compliance with state and federal law. This approach is consistent with guidance from the National School Boards Association and the Minnesota School Boards Association.
“Providing privacy for all students is an important consideration,” the district said.
The case is N.H. v. Anoka-Hennepin School District No. 11, No. A19-1944 in State of Minnesota in Court of Appeals.