Our Legal and Policy Work
Transgender and gender nonconforming young people face high rates of discrimination, harassment and abuse at school, in health care facilities, in group homes, and other settings. Transgender Law Center has worked with many youth and their families to advocate for their right to live safe and affirming lives and to have a safe place to learn.
Transgender Law Center provides representation and information to help youth, and/or parents and their legal guardians navigate the challenges that can arise for transgender and gender nonconforming youth, including making sure schools and health care settings are respecting a student’s gender identity or gender expression, filing for a legal name and/or gender change, and accessing medical care like puberty blockers or hormones. Additionally, we regularly advise schools and other institutions on their legal obligations and best practices with respect to transgender or gender expansive youth.
Prescott v. Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego, 2016
On September 26, 2016, Katharine Prescott, the mother of a transgender teenage boy who was admitted into Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego (RCHSD) for inpatient care, filed a lawsuit against the hospital for discrimination against her son. Katharine is represented by Transgender Law Center, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and attorneys at Foley & Lardner LLP. Katharine Prescott took her 14-year-old son, Kyler Prescott, to RCHSD in early April 2015 for suicidal ideation and for treatment of his serious self-inflicted injuries following an incident of transphobic harassment by his peers. The hospital discriminated against Kyler by repeatedly referring to him as a girl, traumatizing him though they were aware that he was a transgender boy and Katharine made clear several times that he must be treated as male.
Whitaker v. Kenosha USD, 2016
On July 19, 2016, Transgender Law Center and co-counsel Relman, Dane & Colfax PLLC filed suit against the Kenosha Unified School District in Wisconsin on behalf of Ash Whitaker, a 16-year-old transgender boy. Ash has been denied access to male-designated restrooms at his high school, subjected to daily surveillance and threatened with disciplinary action if he continued using the boys’ restrooms. The complaint alleges that these and other discriminatory actions—including a proposal that all transgender students be made to wear bright green wristbands in order to monitor their restroom use, school administrators’ insistence on using Ash’s birth name and female pronouns, and the school’s repeated isolation of Ash from his peers on overnight school trips—violates Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
On August 15, 2016, Ash filed a motion in federal court for a preliminary injunction ordering his school to cease its discriminatory treatment of him before he returns to school for his senior year.
Pledl & Cohn, S.C., based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is assisting Transgender Law Center and Relman, Dane & Colfax as local counsel in this case.
Today, a week after Transgender Law Center sent a demand letter on behalf of a transgender student who was suspended for using the bathroom matching his gender identity, Horry County Schools reversed course on school policies around bathroom use and agreed to adopt new policies to treat transgender students fairly.
For more information, click here.
On October 28, 2015, Transgender Law Center, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, and Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman filed an amicus brief on behalf of school administrators, including superintendents, principals and other administrators, whose school districts have adopted inclusive policies for their transgender students. The case, filed in district court in Virginia by the American Civil Liberties Union, involves Gavin Grimm, a 16-year-old transgender boy, whose use of the boys’ restroom resulted in a school board policy denying transgender students access to the restrooms consistent with their gender identity. The amicus brief shows the school administrators’ overwhelmingly positive experiences in adopting transgender inclusive policies and how such policies create a safe, welcoming and productive learning environment for all students.
California Education Committee, LLC v. Jack O’Connell, 2009
This lawsuit was filed in 2008 by anti-LGBT organizations who sought to overturn California’s nondiscrimination laws that protect students from discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. Among other things, the lawsuit claimed that the nondiscrimination law had led one school to permit a transgender middle school boy to use the boys’ locker room, which the anti-LGBT organizations claimed violated the privacy rights of a non-transgender boy who had to share the locker room with him. Along with our co-counsel – the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Lambda Legal, and the Law Office of David C. Codell – we filed an amicus brief supporting the laws and arguing that the supposed privacy claim was baseless. The Sacramento Superior Court issued a decision in June 2009 upholding the nondiscrimination statutes and dismissing the lawsuit.
Policy & Advocacy
Transgender Law Center co-sponsored legislation in California providing that youth in foster care should be housed according to their gender identity. The bill was signed by the Governor and went into effect in January 2016.
Transgender Law Center advocated for the passage of AB 1266, which requires that transgender students be able to fully participate in all school activities, school programs and sport teams, and use facilities consistent with their gender identity. The bill was signed by the Governor and went into effect on January 1, 2014.
Transgender Law Center advocated for the passage of SB 48, which requires the inclusion of various groups in the history of California and the United States, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans. The bill was signed by the Governor in 2011 and went into effect on January 1, 2012.
Transgender Law Center negotiated a settlement with San Diego State University (“SDSU”) on behalf of a transgender student who was viciously verbally assaulted when using the locker rooms consistent with his gender identity and subsequently forced to leave the locker room by university staffpersons in violation of his rights. As a result of the settlement, SDSU has instituted privacy partitions in all locker rooms, required training by all recreational staff on SDSU’s gender-inclusive policy and responses to discrimination and harassment, and placards on SDSU’s gender-inclusive policy throughout the facility.
For more information, click here.
Transgender Law Center represented a transgender student at Citrus College in California on a challenge to the college’s refusal to identify her with her preferred name on class rosters and attendance lists. Citrus College has since implemented the requisite changes to their data systems to allow transgender students to be properly identified within those systems.
Transgender Law Center represented a transgender high school student in North Carolina whose schools refusal to print his preferred name in the school’s yearbook. Upon TLC’s involvement, the school adopted a new policy to print the preferred names of transgender students in yearbooks.
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