Maine Supreme Court case: Transgender students and bathroom access

12 Jun

 

An emerging issue for schools is how to accommodate different populations of students. The Maine Supreme Court heard oral arguments about the case of Nicole Maines, a transgender student. The Intersex Society of North America defines transgender in the article, What’s the difference between being transgender or transsexual and having an intersex condition?

 

People who identify as transgender or transsexual are usually people who are born with typical male or female anatomies but feel as though they’ve been born into the “wrong body.” For example, a person who identifies as transgender or transsexual may have typical female anatomy but feel like a male and seek to become male by taking hormones or electing to have sex reassignment surgeries.

 

People who have intersex conditions have anatomy that is not considered typically male or female. Most people with intersex conditions come to medical attention because doctors or parents notice something unusual about their bodies. In contrast, people who are transgendered have an internal experience of gender identity that is different from most people.

 

Many people confuse transgender and transsexual people with people with intersex conditions because they see two groups of people who would like to choose their own gender identity and sometimes those choices require hormonal treatments and/or surgery. These are similarities. It’s also true, albeit rare, that some people who have intersex conditions also decide to change genders at some point in their life, so some people with intersex conditions might also identify themselves as transgender or transsexual.

 

In spite of these similarities, these two groups should not be and cannot be thought of as one. The truth is that the vast majority of people with intersex conditions identify as male or female rather than transgender or transsexual. Thus, where all people who identify as transgender or transsexual experience problems with their gender identity, only a small portion of intersex people experience these problems. http://www.isna.org/faq/transgender

 

It is important to know what type of accommodation is sought.

 

AP reported Lawsuit brought by transgender student over bathrooms, harassment goes to Maine Supreme Court:

 

 

Maine’s highest court heard arguments Wednesday over whether transgender students can use the bathroom of their choice, and the girl at the heart of the case said she hoped justices would recognize the right of children to attend school without being “bullied” by peers or administrators.

Nicole Maines, now 15, watched lawyers argue over whether her rights were violated when the Orono school district required her to use a staff bathroom after there was a complaint about her using the girls’ bathroom.

Maines said after the hearing in Bangor that she hopes the Supreme Judicial Court will ensure no one else experiences what she went though.

“I hope they understood how important it is for students to be able to go to school and get an education and have fun and make friends, and not have to worry about being bullied by students or the administration, and to be accepted for who they are,” said Maines, who now attends a high school in southern Maine.

Her family and the Maine Human Rights Commission sued in 2009 over the school’s actions, but a state judge ruled that the school district acted within its discretion. Maines is a biological male who from an early age identified as a girl.

At issue is whether the school violated the Maine Human Rights Act, which bars discrimination based on sex or sexual orientation. State law also requires separate bathrooms for boys and girls in schools.

Melissa Hewey, lawyer for the school and school district, said afterward it should be up to the Legislature to clarify the issue.

“To the extent that the people in Maine decide that this law in Maine should be changed, then that should be done. But right now the law is what it is, and our school district didn’t violate it,” she said.

The case goes beyond just the bathroom issue to the broader question of what’s best for transgender students, said Jennifer Levi, director of Transgender Rights Project for the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders.

“At the core of this case is whether the promise of equal educational opportunities for transgender students is realized,” she said. http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/06/12/lawsuit-brought-by-transgender-student-over-bathrooms-harassment-goes-to-maine/#ixzz2W2npauHR

 

 

The Transgender Law and Policy Institute explains the issue in the article, Ways that U.S. Colleges and Universities Meet the Day-to-Day Needs of Transgender Students written by Brett-Genny Janiczek Beemyn

 

 

Bathrooms
Because gender-diverse students are often subject to harassment and violence when using male- or female-specific campus restrooms, a rapidly growing number of colleges and universities are creating gender-neutral bathrooms, either through renovations or by simply changing the signs on single-stall male/female restrooms. Currently, more than 150 campuses have gender-neutral bathrooms, including
Oberlin College, which has two gender-neutral bathrooms in its student union and at least one in every residence hall; the University of California, San Diego, which has changed male/female signs on 88 single-stall restrooms in campus buildings; and the New College of California, where all campus bathrooms are gender-neutral. Many of the colleges and universities with gender-neutral bathrooms, including New York University, Ohio University, UCLA, and the University of Colorado, Boulder, list the locations of these restrooms on their websites.

Along with developing gender-neutral restrooms, some institutions, such as American University, Kent State University, Ohio State University, the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Washington State University, have implemented or are in the process of implementing policies requiring that all extensively renovated and newly constructed buildings include at least one gender-neutral bathroom.

The University of Arizona has established a bathroom policy that affirms that individuals have the right to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity. The statement is available at http://fp.arizona.edu/affirm/restroomaccess.htm.

Locker Rooms

As with male and female bathrooms, public locker and shower rooms can be uncomfortable, intimidating, and even dangerous places for transgender students, who may be outed as transgender if they have to undress in front of others. Partly in response to this issue, a growing number of campuses, including Ohio State University, the University of Maryland, and the University of Oregon, have created private changing rooms when they have renovated or built new recreation centers. These facilities not only serve the needs of transgender students, but also parents with children of a different gender than themselves, people with disabilities who require the assistance of an attendant of a different gender, and anyone desiring greater privacy.

 

http://www.transgenderlaw.org/college/guidelines.htm

 

 

There are pros and cons to gender neutral bathrooms.

 

 

Debate.org asks the question: Should schools have gender-neutral bathrooms for transgender students?

 

      • Gender Segregation is Wrong

Multi-stall gender neutral washrooms are the way to go because gender segregation is wrong. Gender segregation is based on the idea that “men” and “women” are the only choices to pigeonhole people into. We all know that gender is a spectrum and not a binary. Segregation is also wrong because because it creates a “us and them” mentality between the sexes and harms gender equality. When we unite all persons and do away with gender segregation then we all build a better society!

Posted by: Anonymous

  • Equality for all

    We need to move forward and stop putting people in to little boxes. We should embrace diversity of every individual, i.e. those who don’t fit into either the socially created “male, female”. Everyone is different and yet we are all the same, so I think it time to make things easier for all those that don’t fit into any boxes and more forward into acceptance.

  • Looks that way

    If they aren’t comfortable with transgender students picking a bathroom, they need to provide them with another one. These kids are demonized enough without being told where they can and cannot go to the bathroom, if we’re so ill equipped to handle this that this is the only way to avoid conflict then sadly so be it.

  • Safety is priority

    All people should feel safe using the bathroom. Besides the fact that discrimination is so last year. Suicide and homicide rates of individuals who identify or are perceived as transgendered are some of the highest in the country. And we worry about designating bathroom (most of which already exist— we just have to change the signs) as gender neutral? This can prevent bullying, prevent anxiety, and create a more accepting atmosphere. Let’s do it.

    Posted by: Anonymous

  • Should schools have gender-neutral bathrooms for transgender students?

    Yes. Trans folk have to live in fear of where they’re going to use the bathroom in public, and no one should have to live with that. Even if their I.D. indicates their preferred gender, they can still get harassed, still get arrested, and still be discriminated against. It would be best if all trans folk could use their preferred restroom, but until that happens, we should provide gender neutral bathrooms for everyone that doesn’t fit into the gender binary.

    Posted by: Anonymous

  • Yes, schools should support gender-neutral bathrooms for transgender students. A gender-neutral bathroom has many uses.

    Transgender individuals already face enough ridicule for their lifestyle. These lives they live however are no more or less human than ours. Having access to a safe place they can use and not feel unwelcome or unwanted should be a part of every building in America. Beyond the benefit for transgender students, gender-neutral bathrooms can provide a safe place for families who have small children that may need to change or feed their child while in a public place that want some privacy.

    Posted by: Anonymous

  • Yes, they should have gender-neutral bathrooms.

    First of all, being trans* is not a choice, and I doubt that any school aged child would have had a sex-change at their age. Another thing, bisexual preference is who you date, gender identity is who you are. Anyway, I’m not sure about trans woman, but most trans men choose not to have a “full sex change” because of the risks. So if you go into a women’s bathroom and see a person dressed in slacks, button up shirt, a tie and a beard, you’d object, wouldn’t you? Now let’s say they go into the women’s bathroom and see someone that knows them at a woman. They could call the school and get that person suspended from school or even expelled. Transgendered students are more common than you think; whether out of the closet or not. It wouldn’t cause any harm to people who are not transgender, so why not just give up this one thing for the sake of others?

    Posted by: Anonymous

  • Gender is a term that was created within the last 50 years.

Biologically, there are only two options – male and female. To claim that sex is fluid is insanity. Furthermore, there is a movement brought to you by Massachusetts that promotes “transgender” childhood. Kids as young as 3 are told by their parents that they can choose what they want to be. If this trend continues, it will spell the end of civilization.

Posted by: Anonymous

  • No. Why should they have to inconvenience themselves?

    Are we talking about kids that have undergone sex changes already? Because if so, then I say to use the nurses bathroom or something. Like the person before me said, We cant pander to every sexual preference. Why should a school have to spend a ton of money for a kid that Chose to change his gender?

    Posted by: Lincoln

  • No, we cannot pander to every sexual preference.

    That is probably a bad way to put it, because I do know it’s not considered a preference. It’s clear that a transgender person being forced to use a bathroom that is designed primarily for one sex rather than another would be disadvantaged, but how many students in any one school is actually a transgender? Are we supposed to build them an entirely separate facility, and if we did would that not make them stand out more as being different? It would be more practical to make all bathrooms gender neutral, sort of like the unisex bathrooms that you sometimes see in airports. But even that would be a huge monetary investment designed to be politically correct to a very low percentage of the population.

    Posted by: haightstreet

    http://www.debate.org/opinions/should-schools-have-gender-neutral-bathrooms-for-transgender-students

 

 

Resources:

 

Best Practices for Transgender Students – The Transgender Law …

 

 

 

GUIDELINES: HOW TO HANDLE TRANSGENDER STUDENTS

 

What is Transgender? – YouTube

 

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