As reported on CNN.com, a transgender rights group has filed a discrimination complaint in Colorado on behalf of a first-grader who was born a boy but identifies as a girl. The filing stems from a decision announced last December by officials at Fountain-Fort Carson School District that Coy Mathis could no longer use the girls’ bathroom, but could use the boys’ bathroom, gender-neutral faculty bathrooms or the nurse’s bathroom at Eagleside Elementary.
Mother Kathryn Mathis said she and her husband were shocked. “We were very confused because everything was going so well, and they had been so accepting, and all of a sudden it changed and it was very confusing and very upsetting because we knew that, by doing that, she was going to go back to being unhappy,” she told CNN. “It was going to set her up for a lot of bad things.”
Coy was born with male sex organs but has identified as female since she could express herself, her mother said. The child had attended classes during her kindergarten year with no problems and no complaints from anyone at the school, Mathis told reporters.
Afraid bullies would make fun of her daughter, Kathryn Mathis said she pulled Coy out of school during winter break. “In the end, we just want what is the best for Coy,” Mathis said about the complaint. “We want her to be able to go back to school and be treated equally without discrimination and harassment.”
Attorney Michael Silverman of the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, which is representing Coy, said the complaint — which was filed with the Colorado Civil Rights Division — is intended to have an impact beyond a single family or school. “For many transgender people, discrimination is a daily part of life. Unfortunately for Coy, it has started very early,” he said, adding that the complaint is a “test of Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act.” “The world is going to be looking at the school,” he said, which can “send a message to the world and teach tolerance, fair play and equal rights.”
The district “took into account not only Coy, but other students in the building, their parents and the future impact a boy with male genitals using a girls’ bathroom would have as Coy grew older,” a letter the family’s attorney received in December said. “However, I’m certain you can appreciate that, as Coy grows older and his male genitals develop along with the rest of his body, at least some parents and students are likely to become uncomfortable with his continued use of the girls’ restroom.”
In a recent statement, the district’s attorney, W. Kelly Dude, said: “The district firmly believes it has acted reasonably and fairly with respect to this issue. However, the district believes the appropriate and proper forum for discussing the issues identified in the charge is through the Division of Civil Rights process. The district is preparing a response to the charge which it will submit to the division. Therefore, the district will not comment further on this matter out of respect for the process which the parents have initiated.”
Dude has said there is nothing in that state requiring public schools to permit transgender students to use restrooms intended for the gender with which they identify. He added that the Fountain-Fort Carson School District adheres to the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act in all respects: “Coy attends class as all other students, is permitted to wear girls’ clothes and is referred to as the parents have requested.”
“It’s sad that the Mathis family had to file a civil rights complaint in order for their daughter to be treated equally,” said Herndon Graddick, president of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, in a statement. “The students clearly aren’t the only people at this school who need more education.”
Coy’s case will be the first to challenge a restroom restriction under the state’s anti-discrimination act, the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund said.
For now, the first-grader is being home-schooled.
Source: CNN.com, 2/28/13 by Ed Payne and Ashley Fantz
[Editor's Note: In December 2012, Legal Clips summarized the decision of a Maine Superior Court in Doe v. Clenchy, which held that Riverside RSU 26, formerly Orono School District (OSD), did not violate a transgender (male-to-female) student’s rights under the Maine Human Rights Act (MHRA) when school officials prohibited the student from using the girls’ restroom at school. It also rejected the student’s claims of discrimination under the MHRA based on deliberate indifference to student-on-student harassment or harassment by school officials.]