Maine Supreme Court: Transgender Student’s Rights Were Violated
Jonas Maines, left, and his transgender twin sister, Nicole Maines, appear outside court in Bangor in this June 2013 photo.
The Supreme Judicial Courtr uled Thursday in a case in which lawyers for a transgender girl argued that her rights were violated when the fifth-grader was required to use a staff bathroom instead of the girls’ restroom.
The litigation arose after officials at an Orono elementary school denied Nicole Maines, a transgender girl who was then in fifth grade, use of the girls’ restroom. The school had previously allowed Nicole to use the girls’ room but reversed course after the misconduct of one male student who followed Nicole into that facility.
Nicole Maines’ family and the Maine Human Rights Commission sued in 2009 over the school’s actions.
“This is a momentous decision that marks a huge breakthrough for transgender young people,” said Jennifer Levi, director of GLAD’s Transgender Rights Project, who argued the case before the Maine Law Court on June 12.
“Schools have a responsibility to create a learning environment that meets and balances the needs of all kids and allows every student to succeed. For transgender students this includes access to all school facilities, programs, and extracurricular activities in a way that is consistent with their gender identity,” said Levi.
“A transgender girl is a girl and must be treated as such in all respects, including using the girls’ restroom. This ruling is consistent with what educators and human rights commissions – including the Maine Human Rights Commission — around the country have concluded,” said GLAD Senior Attorney Bennett Klein, who was co-counsel with Levi in the case.
Melissa Hewey, lawyer for the school district, said the 5-to-1 ruling provided clarity not just to Orono schools, but to schools around the state.“The court has now clarified what has been a difficult issue and is a more and more common in schools, and the Orono School Department is going to do what it needs to do to comply with the law,” she said.
Meanwhile, school administrators in other states across the country are grappling with the issue.
Colorado officials ruled last year that a school district discriminated against a 6-year-old transgender girl who was prevented from using a girls’ bathroom. In California, there’s an effort afoot to overturn a law spelling out the rights of transgender students in public schools.
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