A transgender teen and his family are suing a Kenosha, Wisconsin school district because school officials demanded that he wear a special green wristband so they could monitor which restroom he could use.
According to the Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, the federal Title IX lawsuit filed Wednesday claims that the school district told guidance counselors that the 16-year-old transgender boy, Ash Whitaker, would have to wear a bright green wristband. The suit alleges that the Kenosha Unified School District told the counselors that “any other transgender students at the school” must wear the bracelets in order to “more easily monitor and enforce restroom usage.”
Ash Whitaker is a well-known trans rights advocate, after having made a stand over his right to run as prom king after being told he could only run for prom queen last spring. His mother, Melissa Whitaker, is a teacher at Ash’s school and co-plaintiff in the lawsuit.
Title XI is a federal law signed into place in June 1972 that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program. The law applies to any and all such funded programs, including public schools and activities, state colleges, universities, and any private programs that also receives federal financial assistance.
The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court in Milwaukee and indicates school Superintendent Sue Savaglio-Jarvis and other school officials:
‘Repeatedly refused to recognize or respect (Whitaker’s) gender identity and have taken a series of discriminatory and highly stigmatizing actions against him.’
The lawsuit accuses the district officials of a number of denials of Whitaker’s rights as well as discriminatory practices. According to documents filed at the court, the school has denied him access to the boys’ bathrooms and has repeatedly used his birth name and feminine pronouns to refer to him. He has also been required to room with girls on school field trips.
The lawsuit was filed by the Transgender Law Center on behalf of the Whitakers. A staff attorney with the Oakland, California based organization issued a statement:
‘These lawsuits are about the equal treatment of transgender students and making sure they are treated just like every other student in their schools.’
Whitaker was born as a girl, but identifies as a boy and came out to family and close friends during the eighth grade. Whitaker drew national support last spring when the same school district refused to let him run for prom king. Protests from other students forced the school to change its mind.
Although the school reversed its decision, Whitaker and his mother filed a complaint with the Civil Rights division of the U.S. Department of Education. The complaint was withdrawn in light of Tuesday’s lawsuit.
The U.S. Departments of Justice and Education issued a notice to school districts in May, instructing them that the restricting transgender students to facilities that matched their birth sex violated Title IX. They were also notified that directing such students to only use single stall restroom facilities where other students were not similarly restricted was also a violation of the law. School districts were told that failure to comply with the DOJ-DOE directives would jeopardize their funding from federal sources.
Wisconsin is currently suing the Obama administration over the directives, as are a handful of other states, including Virginia, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Utah, Louisiana, and Georgia.
According to the Wisconsin Attorney General, Brad Schimel:
‘After discussing with Governor Walker, I have decided to join my colleagues from across the country in challenging the Obama Administration’s latest power grab, which will have a significant impact on Wisconsin.’
Since a Williams Institute 2013 study estimates the transgender population at a mere 0.5 percent, it seems that directing Wisconsin school boards to comply with a 44-year-old law would have no real impact on Wisconsin or any of the other 10 states filing suit. In fact, it simply looks like a mean-spirited way to harass, embarrass, and otherwise punish kids who are already having a rough time of it just being teenagers as well as members of a historically oppressed minority. It seems that neither Wisconsin governor Scott Walker nor A.G. Brad Schimel have any moral qualms about indirectly bullying a bunch of school kids.
Neither does Superintendent Savaglio-Jarvis, who seems to have taken her administration’s playbook from Nazi Germany by branding transgender kids as “other” with neon green ID bracelets to make sure they don’t pee in the wrong restroom.
Video and featured image screenshot via Kenosha News