Missouri appeals court sides with transgender student in bathroom, locker room discrimination case

Jun 5, 2024, 2:45 PM

BLUE SPRINGS, Mo. (AP) — A $4.2 million verdict that jurors ordered a Missouri school district to pay a transgender student is under consideration again.

The Western District Missouri Court of Appeals found Tuesday that a judge erred in ordering a new trial in a lawsuit over bathroom and locker room access. The decision sends the case against the Blue Springs School District back to the trial court to determine the reasonableness of the sum jurors awarded in 2021.

Judge Anthony Rex Gabbert, who authored the appeals court’s unanimous decision, wrote that the district discriminated because the student did not fit their stereotype of what a male should be.

“This is no different than discriminating against a male because he is not tall enough or not muscular enough,” Gabbert wrote.

The school district said in a statement that it was disappointed by the reversal and is weighing its legal options. It said it couldn’t comment further because the case is pending.

The student, identified in court documents as R.M.A., legally changed his name in 2010 and amended his birth certificate to reflect his gender and new name in 2014, according to the lawsuit, which was filed the next year.

Although the state recognized him as a boy, the district denied him access to the boys’ restrooms and locker rooms at Delta Woods Middle School and the Freshman Center, the lawsuit said.

The student participated in boy’s physical education and athletics in middle school but was required to use a single-person bathroom outside the boys’ locker room, according to court documents. He did not participate in fall sports at the Freshman Center because he could not use the boys’ locker room or restrooms.

The Missouri Supreme Court ruled in 2019 that the state’s human rights laws against sex discrimination could be extended to people who don’t conform to gender stereotypes, which was considered a significant decision for transgender rights at the time.

Similar issues are at play in a lawsuit that the ACLU filed against the Platte County School District.

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Missouri appeals court sides with transgender student in bathroom, locker room discrimination case