Metro Weekly

ACLU and allies defend Frederick County School Board’s pro-transgender policy

Anonymous 15-year-old and her mother claim the board's policy violates student's right to bodily privacy

Frederick High School – Photo: Facebook.

The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Maryland, and FreeState Justice have filed a motion to intervene in a lawsuit against the Frederick County School Board, in the hope of defending the board against a lawsuit challenging its pro-transgender restroom and locker room policy.

The original lawsuit was filed by an anonymous plaintiff known as Jane Doe, acting on behalf of her 15-year-old daughter, Mary Smith, a student at Frederick High School. The lawsuit claims that the school board’s policy allowing transgender students to use facilities that match their gender identity violates her daughter’s “fundamental right” to bodily privacy, and her mother’s right to make decisions regarding the care, custody, control, upbringing, and release of information about her child.

The lawsuit also takes issue with other policies adopted by the school board, including the requirement that staff use gender-specific pronouns an names when interacting with transgender students, and allowing students to participate on sports teams that align with their gender identity.

The ACLU and other legal groups hope to intervene in the case on behalf of James van Kuilenburg, an honor student at Governor Thomas High School who is transgender. Van Kuilenburg says the policies adopted by the school board “gave me the ability to finally be myself and access all parts of my education.” He adds that reversing those policies would be “devastating.”

“The motion to intervene should be granted because J.V.K. satisfies each of the factors required by the Fourth Circuit,” the ACLU, ACLU of Maryland, and FreeState Justice write in their motion. ” J.V.K. seeks intervention because he is a transgender student who depends on the challenged Policies and, thus, has a deeply personal interest in this action, the protections of which would be impaired absent intervention. And his interests are not adequately represented by existing parties in this case.”

After Doe and Smith filed in court, some of van Kuilenburg’s fellow students and LGBTQ advocates launched the Facebook group “Support FCPS Trans Students” to show support for the pro-transgender policies.

Jennifer Kent, the managing attorney for FreeState Justice, says the school board did the right thing by creating policies that affirm transgender students’ gender identity, and vowed to defend those policies against any attempts to dismantle them.

“It’s important that trans students are given the the opportunity to defend themselves against these shameful attempts to isolate and stigmatize them,” Gabriel Arkles, a senior staff attorney at the ACLU LGBT & HIV Project, said in a statement. “Schools can and should provide extra privacy protections or private restroom or changing areas for any student who requests it. But no student has a right to demand that transgender students be segregated from their peers.”

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