Metro Weekly

Minnesota lawsuit challenging trans student’s right to use locker room withdrawn

Student's lawyers say ADF mischaracterized their client's actions to portray her as a threat to her teammates

School Lockers, Photo: SickestFame / Flickr

A Minnesota transgender teenager will be allowed to continue using the girls’ locker room after a right-wing, anti-LGBTQ group withdrew its lawsuit seeking to have her barred from sex-segregated spaces for females.

Last September, the Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit on behalf of “Privacy Matters,” a parents’ group in the town of Virginia, Minn., alleging that the student in question, known as Jane Doe, engaged in inappropriate behavior while grinding and making sexually suggestive dance moves to loud music in the presence of other girls, and even followed teammates to a separate locker room that had been set up to afford them privacy in lieu of sharing a locker room with transgender students.

Based on this intrusive behavior, “Privacy Matters” and the ADF demanded that the school system rescind its policy allowing Jane Doe to use the girls’ locker room. They also sued the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice over guidance from the Obama administration encouraging school districts to allow transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that align with their gender identity.

The American Civil Liberties Union intervened on Doe’s behalf, arguing that their client did not deserve to be singled out from the rest of her volleyball team and banned from the locker room that matches her gender identity. 

Teresa Nelson, the interim executive director of the ACLU of Minnesota, says the ADF presented Jane Doe’s behavior to the press in a way that was salacious and filled with sexual innuendo, implying that she posed some sort of risk to her fellow teammates.

“This lawsuit followed a familiar pattern of organizations and individuals mischaracterizing what happens in restrooms and locker rooms in order to target innocent transgender youth,” Joshua Block, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s LGBT Project, said in a statement. “It’s disappointing that Jane was ever subjected to this ordeal in the first place, but we’re glad to see anti-trans advocates recognize that spreading misinformation and innuendo won’t hold up in court.”

Had the case gone to trial, the ACLU was prepared to argue that Doe should be protected from discrimination on the basis of her sex under Title IX, and under the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution. Doe’s lawyers were also prepared to argue that using the girls’ locker room was a part of their client’s treatment for gender dysphoria and has had a positive effect on her health and wellbeing.

The Alliance Defending Freedom did not indicate why they chose to drop the lawsuit. Nelson noted that a substantial part of the lawsuit had targeted the Obama administration’s guidance, which has since been rescinded by the Trump administration. When that guidance was lifted, the parts of the lawsuit challenging the federal government became moot.

“When we filed the motion to intervene, we submitted several affidavits on behalf of our client, kind of setting the record straight about the fact that the school had set up locations for students who were seeking privacy,” explains Nelson. “And I think that was something that was really understood by ADF when they filed their lawsuit.

“The initial complaint implied that our client was almost stalking other students and entering facilities where they were trying to seek privacy, and that was just not the case. In her affidavit, she stated that she had no idea that she was in a location where they had been seeking privacy, and she had no intention of invading their privacy, so there really wasn’t a privacy claim for those students.”

Nelson says the school district had initially relegated Doe to changing in a converted staff restroom when she first announced she was transitioning. But since the issuance of the Obama administration guidance, and even since its rescission, school administrators have continued to allow Doe to use the locker room and other facilities that match her female identity.

“We applaud the school for not only treating Jane consistent with her gender identity, but also for standing up and defending the policy in court when it was challenged,” says Nelson. 

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com