By Trudy Ring
Originally published on Advocate.com November 24 2012 2:04 PM ET
A Maine judge ruled this week that the Orono school district did not violate the state’s Human Rights Act by not allowing a transgender girl to use the restroom of her choice at her school.
Superior Court judge William Anderson wrote in his decision, issued Tuesday, that “the school acted within the bounds of its authority” in barring Nicole Maines from using the girls’ restroom and making her use a staff restroom instead, the Bangor Daily News reports. He also said the school “did not itself harass” the girl and “was not deliberately indifferent to the harassment that [she] experienced from others.”
The situation dates to 2007, when Nicole was in fifth grade at Asa Adams School, and the harassment continued the following year, when she attended Orono Middle School. She subsequently left the district due to harassment, and she now lives in another part of Maine with her parents and twin brother and is doing well in her current school. She was not identified in the suit, but local news stories have named the family. Her parents, along with the Maine Human Rights Commission, filed the suit in 2009, after the commission had ruled that school administrators had discriminated against her. Administrators of both schools are named in the lawsuit, as is Kelly Clenchy, the former superintendent of the Orono district.
The attorney representing the Maines family, Bennett Klein of Boston-based Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, said they will appeal the ruling to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. “This case involves a fifth-grade girl who was made an outcast by the school and subjected to severe bullying,” he told the Daily News. “We think the judge was wrong on the law and ignored critical facts. From the very beginning we always knew that this case would ultimately be decided by Maine’s highest court.”
Anderson expressed sympathy for Nicole, writing in his decision, “It is no doubt a difficult thing to grow up transgender in today’s society. This is a sad truth, which cannot be completely prevented by the law alone. The law casts a broad stroke where one more delicate and refined is needed. Although others mistreated [the girl] because she is transgender, our Maine Human Rights Act only holds a school accountable for deliberate indifference to known, severe and pervasive student-on-student harassment. It does no more.”