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Trans High Schooler Prevails Over Discriminatory Principal


Kami Pham was told she could not wear clothes that correspond with her gender identity. 

Kami Pham, a transgender student at Southwood High School in Caddo Parish, La., is celebrating victory today. Pham, a senior, was recently informed by principal Jeff Roberts that she would be excluded from the yearbook for violating the dress code in her senior pictures, just two weeks before the yearbook was scheduled to be published. Roberts also threatened to not let her walk in her upcoming graduation if she decided to wear what he deemed a violation, i.e., girls' clothes.

Now the Caddo Parish School Board is reversing Roberts's decision, citing Pham's First Amendment rights. And rightly so: Pham never once violated the school district's dress code. Roberts claimed Pham wearing a wig and "feminine" clothing is inconsistent with her birth certificate. Inconsistent with his claims, the dress code is entirely gender-neutral.

In response to Roberts's discrimination, Pham's friend Tatjana Cotton created a petition to fight for Pham's rights as a trans woman.

"If I wore that same outfit, there would be no problem, no one would say anything. So why treat Kami any different just because of what her birth certificate says?" Cotton said. Cotton also spoke on the principal's hypocrisy, saying, "He's very relaxed with dress code. ... The chance for someone to get in trouble for dress code is the chance for someone to get struck by lightning."

The petition had garnered 4,641 signatures when Cotton posted an update Tuesday: "Victory!!!! A definite win for our LGBT students in Caddo Parish." The school board released a statement detailing the reversal of the exclusion.

"Recently allegations have been made concerning the rights of transgendered [sic] students at Southwood High School and schools in our district," the statement read. "While federal and state laws prohibit the district commenting on individual student cases, the district's position is clear: Caddo Parish stands by the First Amendment right of students to express themselves and that belief is supported within the Caddo Parish School Board's approved dress code policy. This expression is without regard to race, color, religion, age, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability."

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