September 17, 2013

Following inaction by administrators, ACLU calls on Dept. of Education to stop PTEC from discriminating against woman told to use restroom facilities in “storage area” after administrators learned she is transgender

IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 17, 2013
CONTACT:  ACLU of Florida Media Office, (786) 363 - 2737

Largo, FL - The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) on behalf of Alex Wilson, a 25-year-old nursing student at Pinellas Technical Education Centers (PTEC), who was told she cannot use the same restrooms as all other women at PTEC only after PTEC administrators discovered she is a transgender woman. In a filing sent today to the DOE’s Office for Civil Rights, the ACLU states that Pinellas County Schools, of which PTEC is a part, is discriminating against Alex on the basis of her sex in violation of Title IX of the Educations Amendments of 1972.

“It’s unfortunate that school administrators have not yet taken action to stop this violation of Alex’s rights,” stated Daniel Tilley, ACLU of Florida’s LGBT rights staff attorney. “Alex was treated the same as any other student until administrators found out she is transgender. Now they are stigmatizing her and humiliating her because of her gender identity.”

Alex, who has been living as a woman for four years and is identified as female on her Florida driver’s license and in the records of the Social Security Administration, has been enrolled in classes at PTEC since November 2012. From November until July, Alex used the women’s restrooms at PTEC. On July 8, 2013, having become aware that Alex is transgender, school officials informed her that she was no longer allowed to use the school’s women’s restrooms nor would she be allowed to use the general men’s restrooms, instead requiring her to use segregated facilities.

After being told she could not use the women’s restrooms, Alex was told she would have to use either a restroom in a separate building in what an administrator termed “the storage area,” or the faculty men’s restroom for which she would need to obtain a key from an administrator. In a separate meeting two days later, a school administrator – who referred to Alex using the male pronoun “he” – told Alex that if she used the general women’s or men’s rooms, charges would be pressed against her.

In a letter sent on August 22nd to the superintendent of Pinellas County Schools, the ACLU of Florida stated that the treatment to which Alex had been subjected amounted to sex discrimination and called for administrators to “grant Alex immediate access to all sex-specific programs, activities, and facilities at PTEC consistent with her gender identity[…].” After nearly a month passed with no serious action to right the wrongs being perpetrated against Alex, the ACLU sent the complaint today to the DOE.

The complaint calls for the DOE to investigate the circumstances of Alex’s situation and find that the District violated Title IX. It also calls on the DOE to compel the district to: stop requiring Alex to use restroom facilities separate from other students; train District officials on the rights of students under Title IX, including the rights of transgender students; and revise District policies to ensure conformity with Title IX. If the Department of Education is not satisfied that Pinellas Schools are complying with all federal requirements protecting the rights of students, they have the authority to deny federal funds to the District.

A copy of the complaint submitted to DOE today is available here:

More information on Alex’s case is available here:

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