Gender identity

Parents of transgender 8-year-old sue school for discrimination in landmark case

From left to right: Priya Shah, Nikki, Nikki’s sister and her father, Jaspret Brar. (Twitter / L.A. Times)

The family of an 8-year-old transgender girl is suing the child’s former private elementary school for allegedly refusing to accommodate her gender identity.

As The Los Angeles Times reports, Nikki Brar and her parents have filed a lawsuit against Heritage Oak Private Education in Yorba, California. Court documents allege that the school did not allow Nikki to wear the clothes of her choice, use the girls’ bathroom, or be addressed with female pronouns.

The suit is the first transgender civil rights case to invoke a state anti-discrimination law. The Shah family alleges that Heritage Oak violated the Unruh Civil Rights Act, a California law that outlaws discrimination based on sex, race, religion, and other identifying categories.

According to the complaint, Nikki began to express her gender identity as a small child — she wore her mother’s heels, wanted to paint her nails, and loved the color pink. When she was 4, Nikki told her parents she wanted to be a girl. By the time she was 7, she was seeing a gender specialist and had started to wear girls’ clothes at home.

Nikki’s parents told the Times that they decided to send her to Heritage Oak because the school advertised itself as a “nondiscriminatory community that valued diversity.” But the suit alleges that school’s executive director would not allow Nikki to wear a girl’s uniform. It granted her access to the staff bathroom, but would not permit her to use the girls’ facilities.

In February of 2017, Nikki left Heritage Oak and her mother, Priya Shah, stopped working so she could homeschool the child. According to the Times, the family’s lawsuit “seeks damages for emotional distress and discrimination as well as over $10,000 in school tuition and fees. It also asks the school to declare that it violated the state nondiscrimination law and that it advertised fraudulently.” The suit also demands that the school implement a policy of nondiscrimination against transgender students, and educate both children and teachers about transgenderism.

In a statement to The Independent, Heritage Oak spokeswoman Kerry Owens said that the school has previously accommodated the needs of other transgender students, and that in Nikki’s case, it had opted to respond to her requests “not hastily, but with deliberate care.”

Read the full story at The Los Angeles Times.


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