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Missouri school district must pay trans student $4 million after barring him from boys bathrooms

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Justices determined that the plaintiff was discriminated against for having "female genitalia" when the district "does not speculate, inspect, or otherwise inquire as to the genitalia of other male students.”

A transgender former student has been awarded $4 million ten years after bringing a discrimination lawsuit against his district.

An appeals court unanimously ruled Tuesday that the plaintiff, known by his initials R.M.A., was discriminated against when the Blue Springs School District in Missouri prohibited him from using boys bathrooms or locker rooms. Judge Anthony Gabbert wrote in the decision that R.M.A. was treated differently due to his “female genitalia," which constitutes sex-based discrimination.

“School district employees suggested that R.M.A. had been excluded from the boys’ restrooms and locker rooms because of the school district’s belief that he had female genitalia,” Gabbert wrote, via the Missouri Independent. “The school district did not actually determine the nature of R.M.A.’s genitalia, however, and does not speculate, inspect, or otherwise inquire as to the genitalia of other male students.”

R.M.A. changed his name in 2010, and later changed his birth certificate to reflect his gender identity in 2014, according to his lawsuit filed in 2015. He claimed he was forced to use a “separate, single person, unisex bathroom outside of the boys’ locker room" in order to participate in physical education classes and extra-circular athletics.

R.M.A. also said he had played in the middle school boys football and track teams, but decided to “not participate in fall sports for the 2014-2015 school year” after he was barred from the boys facilities.

Despite the school district claiming it has an "unwritten policy of using birth certificates to determine sex,” Gabbert noted in the ruling that the district "refused to tell R.M.A.’s mother that it would honor a corrected birth certificate stating he is male because it wanted to keep its options open in the event R.M.A. was able to obtain a corrected birth certificate.”

R.M.A.'s lawsuit was first dismissed in 2016 after a court claimed that gender identity is not protected under the Missouri Human Rights Act. The Missouri Supreme Court reversed the decision in 2019, and the case was brought to trial. A jury awarded $4.7 million to R.M.A. in December, 2021, until the judge sided in favor of the school district, and the case was sent to Missouri’s Western District Court of Appeals.

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Ryan Adamczeski

Ryan is a staff writer at The Advocate, and a graduate of New York University Tisch's Department of Dramatic Writing, with a focus in television writing and comedy. She first became a published author at the age of 15 with her YA novel "Someone Else's Stars," and is now a member of GALECA, the LGBTQ+ society of entertainment critics. In her free time, Ryan likes watching New York Rangers hockey, listening to the Beach Boys, and practicing witchcraft.
Ryan is a staff writer at The Advocate, and a graduate of New York University Tisch's Department of Dramatic Writing, with a focus in television writing and comedy. She first became a published author at the age of 15 with her YA novel "Someone Else's Stars," and is now a member of GALECA, the LGBTQ+ society of entertainment critics. In her free time, Ryan likes watching New York Rangers hockey, listening to the Beach Boys, and practicing witchcraft.