The Sumner County schools’ transgender bathroom ban is being challenged by the ACLU

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The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee is calling on the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights to force the Sumner County school system to grant a transgender student access to the restroom that matches her gender identity.

Formally identified as a 'complaint' to the Department of Education, it was filed on behalf of a transgender high school student and her parents in the district who've made a number of attempts to reach an agreement directly with the school system but have failed to reach any compromise.

According to a release from the ACLU, "the complaint seeks the Department of Education’s assistance in enforcing federal law regarding the treatment of transgender students in public schools." Last month a federal appeals court in Richmond, Virginia ruled in favor of a transgender boy who wished to use the boys’ restroom at his school.  The court ruled that Title IX protects the rights of transgender students to use the restrooms that correspond with their gender identity.

Title IX is part of the federal Education Amendments of 1972 that states: 

No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.

In addition, last week the Obama administration offered "guidelines" for local school boards regarding transgender access to bathrooms, reminding lawmakers that Title IX is tied to federal funding. Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam has been openly critical of the directive, particularly in this statement:

The White House itself has said what they issued last week is not an enforcement action and does not make any additional requirements under the law. Congress has the authority to write the law, not the executive branch, and we disagree with the heavy-handed approach the Obama administration is taking.

“No student should have to endure the stigma and marginalization of being segregated from the rest of the student body,” said ACLU-TN cooperating attorney Abby R. Rubenfeld of the Rubenfeld Law Office. “These kinds of blanket bans prevent transgender students from being treated fairly and equally at school.  This policy is not only misguided, it’s a direct violation of Title IX and the Fourteenth Amendment.”

The complaint calls for the district to be required to permit the student to use the girls’ restrooms and locker rooms at school, and to create a new policy ensuring that transgender students be treated the same as other students.

Under current district policy, the student is only allowed to use the faculty or the special needs bathroom.

See a copy of the complaint here.