Breakthrough Ruling in Favor of Transgender Student
Transgender Students Must Have Full Access to School Facilities, Says Maine High Court
Today, Maine’s highest court ruled that denying a transgender girl the use of the girls’ restroom at her school violated her rights under Maine’s Human Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination against transgender people.
The decision in GLAD’s lawsuit Doe v. Clenchy marks the first time a state court has ruled that transgender students must be allowed to use the bathrooms that match who they are.
“Schools have a responsibility to create a learning environment that meets and balances the needs of all kids and allows every student to succeed. For transgender students this includes access to all school facilities, programs, and extracurricular activities in a way that is consistent with their gender identity.”
– Jennifer Levi, Transgender Rights Project Director
The ruling stated in part, “[The school] agreed with Susan’s family and counselors that, for this purpose (as for virtually all others), Susan is a girl. Based upon its determination that Susan is a girl, and in keeping with the information provided to the school by Susan’s family, her therapists, and experts in the field of transgender children, the school determined that Susan should use the girls’ bathroom.”
“This is a momentous decision that marks a huge breakthrough for transgender young people,” said Jennifer Levi, director of GLAD’s Transgender Rights Project, who argued the case before the Maine Law Court on June 12. “Schools have a responsibility to create a learning environment that meets and balances the needs of all kids and allows every student to succeed. For transgender students this includes access to all school facilities, programs, and extracurricular activities in a way that is consistent with their gender identity.”
“A transgender girl is a girl and must be treated as such in all respects, including using the girls’ restroom. This ruling is consistent with what educators and human rights commissions – including the Maine Human Rights Commission — around the country have concluded,” said GLAD Senior Attorney Bennett Klein, who was co-counsel with Levi in the case.
The litigation arose after officials at an Orono elementary school denied Nicole Maines, a transgender girl who was then in fifth grade, use of the girls’ restroom. The school had previously allowed Nicole to use the girls’ room but reversed course after the misconduct of one male student who followed Nicole into that facility.
“We are very grateful and relieved that the Court said our daughter should not be singled out for different treatment at school simply because she is transgender,” said Wayne Maines, Nicole’s father. “As parents all we’ve ever wanted is for Nicole and her brother Jonas to get a good education and to be treated just like their classmates, and that didn’t happen for Nicole. What happened to my daughter was extremely painful for her and our whole family, but we can now close this very difficult chapter in our lives. We are very happy knowing that because of this ruling, no other transgender child in Maine will have to endure what Nicole experienced.”
GLAD and Jodi L. Nofsinger of Berman & Simmons, P.A. represented Susan in the lawsuit.
Learn more about the case and read previous case documents here.
Read the full decision here.
Through strategic litigation, public policy advocacy, and education, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders works in New England and nationally to create a just society free of discrimination based on gender identity and expression, HIV status, and sexual orientation.