ACLU Challenges Mississippi High School’s Refusal to Let Transgender Student Wear Dress to Graduation Ceremony
JACKSON, Miss. — The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Mississippi have filed a lawsuit against Harrison County School District (HCSD) after school officials told a graduating transgender student she could not wear a dress or heeled shoes to her graduating ceremony as requested by her and her parents.
L.B. is a transgender girl and graduating senior of the class of 2023 at Harrison Central High School. She has been looking forward to finally walking across the stage at her high school graduation this Saturday, May 20, and picked out a dress and pair of heeled shoes months ago to wear under her traditional cap and gown in accordance with the school’s dress code for female students. On May 9, L.B. and her parents were informed by Principal Kelly Fuller that the school would enforce the male dress code against L.B. In a call with L.B.’s mother, Harrison County School District Superintendent Mitchell King said that L.B. “needs to wear pants, socks, and shoes like a boy” in statements that repeatedly misgendered her.
The superintendent cited a written dress code policy, distributed last week, that requires girls to wear white dresses and boys to wear black suits. There is no reported enforcement of this policy against students who are not transgender and school officials have not taken any steps to check the planned outfits for other students.
“My graduation is supposed to be a moment of pride and celebration and school officials want to turn it into a moment of humiliation and shame,” said L.B., a senior at Harrison Central High School. “The clothing I’ve chosen is fully appropriate for the ceremony and the superintendent’s objections to it are entirely unfair to myself, my family, and all transgender students like me. I have the right to celebrate my graduation as who I am, not who anyone else wants me to be.”
“It’s deeply offensive the school would choose to take a celebration of our daughter and her accomplishments and attempt to ruin it with such discriminatory action,” said Samantha, mother of L.B. “Like any parent of a graduating senior, we’re eager to see L.B. cross this critical threshold and enter a new stage of her life, but the superintendent is threatening this once-in-a-lifetime moment for our family. We’re so proud of our daughter and are determined to protect her from this baseless attack on her rights and her identity.”
“L.B. should be focused on celebrating this important milestone alongside her peers; however, this targeted attack by the leaders of the Harrison County School District seeks to strip her of her right to celebrate this occasion as her true self,” said McKenna Raney-Gray, staff attorney at the ACLU of Mississippi. “While we are deeply disappointed in the conduct of the Harrison County School District, we remain committed to defending the rights and autonomy of trans youth across the state, and hope that the court agrees that all students in Mississippi have the right to live as their authentic selves.”
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