BROCKTON COURT RULES IN FAVOR OF TRANSGENDER STUDENT
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Boston, October 12, 2000
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Jennifer L. Levi, Esq.
A Massachusetts Superior Court in Brockton ruled yesterday
that a middle
school may not prohibit a transgender student from expressing her gender
identity even if that expression does not conform with the sex ascribed
to her at birth. In a case brought by Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders
("GLAD") on behalf of a 15-year old student who was born male but has a
female gender identity (known in court records only as Pat Doe), the
court ruled that disciplining a biologically male student for wearing
girls' clothing would violate her First Amendment right of free
expression and constitute sex discrimination.
According to GLAD Staff Attorney Jennifer Levi who argued the
the first reported decision addressing the rights of a transgender
student to express her gender identity in school, it is tremendously
important. We know that a large number of transgender students face
serious hostility from teachers and administrators who lack a basic
understanding about gender identity. This case confirms that a school may
not exert its authority over a student simply to enforce stereotyped
ideas of how boys and girls should look. Nor can a school's discomfort
with the fact that a biologically male student has a female gender
identity, justify enforcing a dress code in a discriminatory way."
The case was brought against the Brockton School Department
school prohibited Pat from attending wearing what the principal
considered to be girls' clothing. This exclusion from school followed
nearly two years of disciplinary action against Pat for wearing girls'
clothing, starting from the time she began to identify as transgender.
The term transgender is used to describe people whose gender identity,
meaning a person's internal, deeply felt sense of being either male or
female, is not consistent with their anatomical sex at birth.
Despite acknowledging that girls who wore the same clothes
Pat did were
not prevented from attending or otherwise disciplined, the school tried
to justify its exclusion of Pat based on other students' discomfort. The
court rejected this argument, holding that prohibiting Pat from wearing
girls' clothing was akin to "the stifling of plaintiff's selfhood merely
because it causes some members of the community discomfort."
The court affirmed that transgender students need the same
protection for their safety that other students need. It further
recognized that "exposing children to diversity at an early age serves
the important social goals of increasing their ability to tolerate
differences" and teaches "respect for everyone's unique personal
Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders
294 Washington Street, Suite 740
Boston, MA 02108.4608
Founded in 1978, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders
(GLAD) is New
England's leading legal rights organization for lesbians, gay men,
bisexuals and people with HIV. GLAD's mission is to achieve full equality
and justice for all individuals in these groups, primarily through impact
litigation and education.