Transgender student claims discrimination at Jenison Schools

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GEORGETOWN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan is demanding Jenison Public Schools change its policy regarding bathrooms and transgender students.

This comes after a transgender student took discrimination complaints to the organization.

The ACLU says the criticism stems from a Tuesday MLive article that reports Superintendent Thomas TenBrink “said transgender students have the option of using a gender-neutral restroom installed last summer for all students, the bathroom that corresponds with the gender assigned to them at birth or one of three unisex staff bathrooms.”

The ACLU says that policy is harmful and stigmatizes transgender students. The organization wrote a letter to the district on Tuesday outlining its concerns.>>PDF: ACLU letter to Jenison Public Schools

“This is about boys using a boys’ bathroom, a transgender boy is a boy. A transgender girl is a girl. It’s the core of what their gender identity is,” ACLU Senior Attorney Miriam Aukerman told 24 Hour News 8 on Tuesday.

She argued the policy violates Title IX and Michigan State Board of Education policy, which she says specifically refers to a federal anti-discrimination law.

“(Under) federal anti-discrimination law, you cannot discriminate on the basis of sex and that also protects transgender students,” Aukerman said.

She said the policy can create a set of problems for transgender students, in part by singling them out.

“A lot of transgender kids end up having health problems because they can’t use a restroom consistent with their gender identity,” she added. “They can’t get to class on time if they have to a use a single-user restroom, which is often in some other place in the building. They end up not using the restroom, getting urinary tract infections.”

24 Hour News 8 reached out to TenBrink to verify the district’s policy on which restrooms transgender students should use, but had not heard back as of Tuesday night. 24 Hour News 8 also couldn’t find any written policy regarding bathroom use on the district’s website.

TenBrink did release a statement on behalf of the district in which he said it “does not discriminate against any student regarding any protected characteristics.”

“Any assertion that the district has engaged in discriminatory practices with transgender or other classes of students is untrue,” the statement continues in part.>>PDF: Full statement from district

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