Pennsylvania School District Refuses to Change Policies on Transgender Students

May 6, 2013

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: 212-549-2666, media@aclu.org

RED LION, Pa. – The Red Lion Area School District (RLASD) has refused to change its policy regarding transgender candidates for prom court, nor will it agree to allow transgender students to use a name at graduation to match their gender identity, according to a letter from the school district's solicitor.

RLASD's treatment of its transgender students became an issue last month after a male transgender student, Issak Wolfe, was denied the chance to run for prom king when his principal placed his female birth name in the column for "prom queen" despite repeated requests to be listed in accordance with his gender identity.

On April 25, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Pennsylvania sent a letter on behalf of Wolfe, asking among other things, that the school allow Wolfe to attend graduation wearing a black cap and gown for boys, as opposed to the yellow cap and gown mandated for girls, and have his male name read at the ceremony. The letter also asked that the school adopt a policy to allow students to run for prom court in accordance with their gender identity, as well as a broader nondiscrimination policy protecting transgender students in the district. In his response, the school district's solicitor agreed to allow Issak to wear a black cap and gown but denied the rest of his requests.

"I am really disappointed that the school district doesn't want to do anything to protect transgender students," said Wolfe, a senior at Red Lion Area High School. "I want to make sure that future transgender students are not humiliated and disrespected the way I was."

Wolfe has gone by Issak since the summer before his junior year of high school, and his family, friends, and most of his teachers call him by that name. Wolfe, who just turned 18 a few weeks ago, plans to legally change his name, but that process, which involves a court hearing, cannot be completed in time for graduation next month.

"There is absolutely no legitimate reason for the school to refuse to read Issak's male name at graduation," said Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. "Their failure to do so shows the same lack of sensitivity they exhibited during Issak's attempt to run for prom king and knowingly mars what should be a happy occasion for Issak and his family."

Wolfe plans to take his case to the RLASD school board at their next meeting on Thursday, May 16.

"It's a shame the school district won't adopt common-sense policies that would protect other transgender students down the line," said Leslie Cooper, staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project. "All students should feel welcome at school and accepted for who they are."

More about the case can be found at:
aclu.org/lgbt-rights/aclu-warns-high-school-principal-who-removed-transgender-pennsylvania-student-prom-king

The district's response can be found at:
aclu.org/lgbt-rights/letter-counsel-red-lion-school-district-concerning-issak-wolfe

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