Court upholds school district policy prohibiting transgender students from wearing dresses until graduation
GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) — Late Friday night, U.S. District Court Judge Taylor McNeel denied a request by Harrison County transgender students for a temporary court relief order.
The 17-year-old student, identified as LB in court to protect her identity, wanted to wear a dress and high heels to Harrison Central High School’s graduation scheduled for Saturday. However, the schools’ dress code required graduating students to wear a white button-up shirt, tie, black slacks, and black shoes for the ceremony.
ACLU attorneys filed the lawsuit in Federal Court on Thursday hoping for a quick decision that would have allowed LB to wear a gown until graduation. Justice McNeel ruled that the plaintiffs’ case fell short of the standard for granting what he called extraordinary relief by altering the status quo in a short period of time.
McNeel said that in this case, he interpreted the status quo as the school districts’ decision to follow the districts’ dress code policy. In making the decision, McNeel said cases involving dress codes involving transgender people are limited and similar cases did not exist.
The hearing began at 3:30 p.m. at the federal courthouse and did not end until 11:30 p.m. The court heard testimony from LB, LB’s mother and Harrison County School District Superintendent Mitchell King.
LB testified that she wore dresses to classes and other school events throughout the four years of her high school career and was referred to by other students and staff as female. Based on past experiences, she said she expected to be able to wear a dress to the graduation ceremony. She and her mother said they signed a participation agreement at the start in March that outlined the graduation dress code policy. After signing the deal, LB said she purchased the outfit she intended to wear for graduation.
In Kings’ testimony, he said he felt it was his responsibility to enforce the school’s graduation dress code policy and that in this case the student wearing a gown would violate the policy. King said at an earlier event that he saw a young man in a robe and it made him consider politics. He then called the principals of Harrison Central, West Harrison and DIberville High Schools and asked them to identify students who may be suspected of violating the dress code. According to King, 4 students in the district, including LB, were suspected of not intending to follow the dress code policy.
On May 9, LB said she was called into the principal’s office and told that if she wore a dress, she would not be allowed to attend graduation ceremonies.
LB testified: If I wasn’t going to wear a dress, I wouldn’t go. I was shocked, disgusted and I did not expect it. I assumed I would be allowed to.
LB and her mother testified in court that she was officially registered as a man during the four years she attended Harrison Central.
Harrison Central High School’s graduation is scheduled for Saturday at 6:30 p.m. at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum.
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