The Maine Human Rights Commission issued a historic ruling on September 20 that Orono Middle School unlawfully discriminated against a transgender sixth grad student for denying her access to the girl's restroom – instead, she was forced to use a gender-neutral bathroom. The student's parents had contended that the policy isolated and alienated their child, in effect creating a hostile educational environment.
In its ruling on Monday, the panel cited that the school discriminated against the student by denying her access to the girl’s restroom. Despite the school department’s warning that schools around the state may not be ready to manage the practical fallout from the decision, civil liberties advocates hailed the ruling as a historic advancement for basic human rights. The ruling moves equality forward for a vulnerable population of students that should be entitled to the full protection under the law.
We know from experience that Orono Middle School’s case is not isolated, and there are school districts across the country in desperate need of cultural competency trainings to help comply with human rights laws providing civil rights protections to transgender and gender non-conforming students. In order to help meet this need, we continue to offer tools such as our Claim Your Rights Resource Center and trainings like our Cultivating Respect Program that foster safer learning environments for all students, including transgender and gender non-conforming young people. We applaud the Maine Human Rights Commission’s ruling and welcome the opportunity to help inform recommendations to schools throughout Maine on how to comply with the law.
This post was written by Eric VanDreason, the newest edition to PFLAG National’s Policy Team. To learn more about Eric and his role at the National Office, please visit our staff page here.