Transgender students deserve a safe learning environment, just like everyone else. The ACLU, the ACLU of Oregon, and Basic Rights Oregon joined forces to stop a meritless lawsuit that targets transgender youth in Dallas, Oregon. This week, we filed both a motion to intervene in the case and a motion to dismiss the case on behalf of Basic Rights Oregon, the state’s largest nonprofit lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer advocacy group.
Last November, a small group of parents in Dallas, Oregon, who call themselves “Parents for Privacy” sued the Dallas School District and other state and federal officials in an attempt to end the district’s policy that protects transgender students from discrimination when using school facilities like bathrooms and locker rooms.
The lawsuit is similar to other failed lawsuits filed around the country. Groups called “Parents for Privacy” have been attacking transgender students’ rights across the nation. They want to force transgender students into the shadows by making them use separate facilities at school. This singles out transgender students, isolates them from their peers, and makes them more susceptible to harassment and bullying. Despite its lack of legal merits, the lawsuit sends a painful, divisive message to transgender students that they are unequal and unwelcome.
Last year, the Trump administration sent their own cruel message to transgender students and their families by rescinding U.S. Department of Education guidance that outlined federal protections. And just last week, they doubled down on their hatred stating that the U.S. Department of Education will no longer review complaints of discrimination brought by transgender students.
Despite the Trump administration’s disregard for transgender students, the law is on our side, and the ACLU will not back down from the fight for transgender students. Courts have repeatedly concluded that federal civil rights laws protect transgender students against discrimination at school, including having equal access to facilities.
Oregon state law also prohibits discrimination in education and public places based on gender identity. In 2016, the Oregon Department of Education expounded upon the state and federal legal protections and issued guidelines for Oregon public schools that protect transgender students from the very behavior for which Parents for Privacy is advocating. After the Trump administration rescinded similar federal guidelines, Governor Kate Brown affirmed Oregon’s commitment to keeping the state’s education guidelines in place and to protecting transgender students from bullying and harassment.
Although Oregon has taken affirmative steps to ensure transgender kids are protected, Basic Rights Oregon reports that in the last year they have received complaints from transgender children who were being harassed in Madras, Echo, Coos Bay, Medford, Stayton, Grants Pass, and Portland. We clearly have more work to do to provide a safe and inclusive learning environment for all students.
The stakes are very high for transgender youth. An overwhelming majority of transgender kids report feeling unsafe at school, due to constant bullying and harassment. And a shocking 41% of transgender kids attempt to end their life. These numbers are heartbreaking and unacceptable.
We want transgender students in Oregon and their parents to know that there are people who are here to protect their rights. We also want school administrators to know that they can and should protect transgender students. Together, we can make sure that a safe education is available to everyone in our state.