July 29, 2022

From Equality Virginia:

Equality Virginia and Partners File Amicus Brief in Support of Transgender and Non-Binary Students in Virginia Schools

RICHMOND, VA – Last evening, Equality Virginia, the Commonwealth’s leading advocacy organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) equality, along with 35 partners and school board leaders across the Commonwealth, filed an amicus brief in support of transgender students in Virginia schools.

The brief asks the Supreme Court of Virginia to uphold the Circuit Court for the County of King William’s dismissal of Peter Vlaming’s lawsuit against the West Point School Board, which rejected Mr. Vlaming’s claims that his firing for violation of the West Point School Board’s anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies violated his rights under Virginia law.

The West Point School Board has a compelling interest in protecting its transgender students from the harms associated with discriminatory treatment. It must also comply with Title IX, which prohibits discrimination against transgender children on the basis of their gender identities, and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. To serve these interests and comply with the law, the West Point School Board must treat its transgender students equally—including by ensuring that its staff addresses transgender students, like their cisgender peers, with the names and pronouns that reflect their gender identity. The illusory burden asserted by Mr. Vlaming cannot stand against this compelling interest.

An amicus curiae brief, or “friend of the court” brief, is filed by organizations or persons not directly involved in a case to provide information related to issues to help courts reach decisions.

The groups point to the negative and harmful experiences of transgender and non-binary students and their families in Virginia schools as reasons why anti-discrimination policies and practices, such as using a student’s correct pronouns, can mitigate these harms.

. . .

“The harm of differentiating transgender students from their peers and failing to affirm their identities is well-established in the courts,” said S. Douglas Bunch, Partner at civil rights law firm Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll. “Sadly, this effect is magnified when the hostile actor is a teacher. School policies, such as one of using pronouns that reflect a transgender student’s identity, are there to mitigate these harms and allow all students to thrive in school.”

. . .

This is the second amicus brief of its kind that Equality Virginia and Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll have filed on behalf of the welfare of transgender and non-binary students in Virginia. On July 9, 2021 Equality Virginia and over 50 partners and school board leaders across the Commonwealth filed a brief in support of Virginia’s model policies to make schools safer and inclusive for transgender students.

Click through to read the complete story on Blue Virginia.