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In March 2013, Transgender Law Center was contacted by a social worker in Missouri who was working with a 9-year-old transgender boy named Trace. When Trace told his classmates that he identifies as a boy, in November 2012, he was immediately suspended and barred from returning to school for approximately three weeks.

After that, the school allowed him to return, but implemented a special education plan for Trace that severely limited his ability to interact with his peers. He had previously been in general education classes, but after he came out as transgender the school essentially put him on “lock down” in the special education classroom full time, segregating him from the general education students and restricting him to the special education classroom under strict supervision even during breakfast, lunch, and recess. He was the only student in the entire school to be restricted in that way. As a result, he told his mother he wanted to quit school and that he even wanted to die.

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The school’s actions were plainly discriminatory, in violation of his right to an appropriate and equal education under federal law—both under Title IX, which prohibits discrimination based on sex, and under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Special education classrooms have historically been used to isolate minority students. As a result, stringent standards have been implemented under federal law to prohibit this unfair and discriminatory treatment of targeted students.

Transgender Law Center’s legal team wrote a letter (below) to the school officials informing them of their obligations under Title IX and IDEA. In response to our letter, the school lifted the restrictions it had placed on Trace, and permitted him to participate in many of the classes and activities from which he had previously been removed, including breakfast, lunch, and recess.

“Trace and I are so grateful for the help of the lawyers at Transgender Law Center,” said Trace’s mother, Lisa. “My child identifies as a boy, dresses like a boy, feels like a boy. They wanted to lock him up for that. Now his school knows they can’t punish a student just for being themselves.”

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