ACLU Backs Trans Nursing Student Told to Use Bathroom In Storage Closet

A technical school in Clearwater, Fla., violated Title IX of the Civil Rights Act when it ordered a nursing student to use a separate bathroom because she is transgender, says the ACLU.

BY Sunnivie Brydum

August 26 2013 3:53 PM ET

The American Civil Liberties Union warned a Florida technical school that it acted in violation of Title IX of the Civil Rights Act when it forbade a transgender nursing student to use the gender-specific bathrooms utilized by all other female students. 

Alex Wilson is a certified nursing assistant taking classes at Pinellas Technical Education Center in Clearwater, Fla., to become a licensed practical nurse, according to WFLA TV. She also happens to be a transgender woman who began hormone therapy more than four years ago, who presents as female, and whose driver's license and Social Security card list her as female, the ACLU confirmed. 

Until July, Wilson used the women's restrooms in various campus buildings between and during classes without incident. But when administrators learned that the 25-year-old student is transgender, they pulled her out of class and informed her she would no longer be allowed to use any of the public women's restrooms. Instead, she would be required to use a single-stall bathroom in what an administrator termed a "storage facility" in the administration building, or the men's faculty restroom, which requires a separate key. The ACLU notes that until recently, neither of these facilities locked from the inside. Wilson was reportedly offered use of a "family restroom" in another building as well, but was told by school officials that if she used any of the women's restrooms, the school would file criminal charges against her, which would make her ineligible to graduate. 

The ACLU letter, sent to the county school superintendent last Thursday, notes that the school''s treatment of Wilson amounts to sex discrimination, prohibited under Title IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Citing a 2012 case that determined Title IX's prohibition of discrimination on sex extends to gender identity, the ACLU notes two additional federal cases that determine differential treatment based on gender non-conformity is, in fact, sex discrimination. 

"Given that the State of Florida recognizes Alex as female, it is unclear why PTEC — a public entity in the State of Florida — refuses to do so," reads the letter, signed by Daniel Tilley, an attorney with the ACLU's Florida affiliate. "We are requesting that you grant Alex immediate access to all sex-specific programs, activities, and facilities at PTEC consistent with her gender identity, including access to the women’s restrooms."

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