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Trans 8-year-old sues private school for emotional damages

Joseph McCormick August 4, 2017
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The family of a transgender 8-year-old is suing a private school for “intentional infliction of emotional distress” after the school allegedly refused to use female pronouns or let her use the female restroom.

The parents of the Nicole Brar, Priya Shah and Jaspret Brar, also allege that the school refused to let their daughter wear female school uniforms in the lawsuit filed in the Superior Court of California in Orange County.

As well as emotional distress, the lawsuit also names other charges and seeks compensatory damages which are yet to be determined.

Their lawyer Mark Rosenbaum told Yahoo: “When any adult says to a child, ‘You may not live according to your gender identity,’ that is serious emotional distress.

Gender-neutral toilet

“There isn’t anything more heartless in the world than telling a child ‘do not follow your heart.’”

The lawsuit names the Heritage Oak Private Education school in Yorba Linda, and asks that the school change its policy on gender transition.

Nikki, as she is known to parents and peers, was withdrawn halfway through the school year and was homeschooled before she will be transferred to another school.

She has also been seeing a therapist following the ordeal, says Rosenbaum.

The lawsuit describes Nikki as a “courageous” child and says her family was entirely supportive after she came out as transgender.

It accuses the parent company of the school, Nobel Learning Communities Inc of having “unlawfully discriminated against Nikki.”

Going on it says that the school “repudiated Nikki’s core identity. It refused to use the name, pronoun, and gender corresponding to Nikki’s gender identity, required Nikki to wear the boy’s uniform and use the boy’s restroom, and failed to address the bullying that Nikki was subjected to because of her gender identity and gender expression. Heritage Oak engaged in this intentional discrimination despite its express and prominently publicized policies of non-discrimination, diversity, and teaching the ‘whole child,’ and despite the fact that Nikki’s parents repeatedly asked the school to respect her identity and repeatedly offered to help educate the school about the needs of transgender children.”

A statement from the school, published by Yahoo, reads: “We strive to meet the needs and wellbeing of all children in our schools, and have been able to accommodate the needs of other transgender students in older grades at Nobel Learning Community schools without incident.

“We were mindful in this instance of the need to support not just this 7-year-old [now 8], but other young children. We believed it was extremely important to respond, not hastily, but with deliberate care, to decide when and how to inform and educate our entire elementary school community of students, staff and parents about the mid-year change of gender identity expression of a young child. Due to the sensitivity of the issue and age of the child, we believed we needed expert guidance regarding timing (such as, preparing children for a change they would see in spring semester of second grade and fall semester of third grade), process and age-appropriate communication.

“We told the family we had decided to retain an outside consultant to assist us, and we were communicating with the family on a consistent basis to discuss potential experts and specific accommodations (in addition to the other accommodations we had already offered, such as use of the single-unit staff bathroom, specific options as to girl’s uniform clothing and girl’s hairstyle, as well as ceasing to use gender groupings in physical education activities). Unfortunately, these accommodations were rejected and the parents withdrew their child.”

But Rosenbaum has said the statement is “completely inaccurate”.

Several similar cases in the US have reached court in the past year.

Cases in Florida, Maine, Colorado and Wisconsin are generally centred around bathroom access and locker rooms.

Some states have also moved to attempt to block the use of public and school restrooms by transgender people.

More: nikki, US

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