Following a proposed policy by the Gardner Edgerton USD 231 School Board, we sent a letter warning the board members that the directives could result in numerous violations of federal law and irreversible harm to the students and staff in the district.
Denying students the right to use the name and pronouns that affirm their gender identity could violate Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972 and the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution. There are no Kansas or federal statutes that require schools to force students to use restrooms or locker rooms that correspond with their sex assigned at birth. And it is settled law that a policy requiring students to use facilities corresponding with their sex assigned at birth violates Title IX and the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution. The proposed policy could also violate federal privacy law and USD 231 students’ constitutional privacy rights by preventing trans students from changing their name or pronouns and by forcibly outing trans students who have already done so.
The policy also has implications for employment law violations, as deliberately refusing to address a transgender person by the name and pronouns consistent with their gender identity can be a form of sex-based harassment under state and federal antidiscrimination law and deliberately deadnaming an employee may constitute harassment under Title VII and the Kansas Act Against Discrimination.
Beyond the legal concerns, the proposed policy creates a deeply hostile and unwelcoming environment for trans students. Trans youth in schools with inclusive policies report lower suicide, greater school safety, and higher grades. Conversely, when anti-transgender policies such as USD 231's are introduced, debated, and passed, trans youth experience higher rates of negative mental health impacts and suicide attempts.
The Board will discuss the policy at their next meeting Monday, 9/12 at 6:00 p.m. at the District Offices Building, 231 E. Madison Street in Gardner, Kansas. Members of the public can submit a request to address the Board at https://www.usd231.org/page/board-of-education.
UPDATE: USD 231 Superintendent informed us that a vote on this policy will NOT take place on Monday as originally planned. We still urge members of the community to show up and make their voices heard as USD 231 engages in these debates. Whatever policy is ultimately considered and voted on, the ACLU of Kansas will stand up for trans kids and their families.