News release from the ACLU of Florida:
Largo, FL – The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida has intervened on behalf of Alex Wilson, 25, a nursing student at Pinellas Technical Education Centers (PTEC), who has been told she cannot use the same restrooms as all other students at PTEC only after PTEC administrators discovered she is a transgender woman. In a letter sent on August 22nd to the superintendent of the Pinellas County School Board, 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[…]”
Alex, who has been living as a woman for four years and is identified as female on her Florida driver’s license and Social Security card, has been enrolled in classes at PTEC, a public technical school in Pinellas County, Florida, 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 could no longer use the 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 restroom, 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. Neither of these facilities lock from the inside. 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 room, charges would be pressed against her.
“This is an issue of basic fairness,” stated ACLU of Florida LGBT rights attorney Daniel Tilley. “Alex is a hard-working student training to become a healthcare professional, and PTEC administrators had no problem with her until they found out she was a transgender woman. The school says their mission is to provide students opportunities to develop workplace skills. Stigmatizing and humiliating Alex does not advance this goal, and it teaches terrible lessons to future healthcare professionals about how to treat diverse populations.”
The letter sent by the ACLU explains that requiring Alex to use separate facilities than those used by other students based solely on her gender identity constitutes sex discrimination under Title IX.
“Transgender people are disproportionately confronted with difficulties meeting basic needs like securing a job, finding housing, getting healthcare, or simply having their gender identity respected,” added Tilley. “The fact that PTEC administrators only started treating Alex differently from the other students when they found out she was transgender makes it clear that this is discrimination, plain and simple. We call on Pinellas County to make this right.”