L.B., a transgender teen at Harrison Central High School, missed her graduation after a Mississippi judge denied her family’s request to have her wear a dress during the special ceremony.
According to court documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the 17 year old student, whose full name is being withheld due to privacy concerns, said she was pulled into the principal’s office and asked what she was going to wear to the ceremony on May 9, two weeks before the event. L.B. told the school’s principal Kelly Fuller that she was going to wear “a white dress.”
“Then she told me I was not going to be allowed to wear a dress, and I would have to wear boy clothes. And she stated that the Superintendent called her asking about what students would wear to graduation,” the teen told CNN.
The young teen said she had worn girl’s clothing all year prior to the school’s objection.
L.B. was shocked by Fuller’s reaction because her clothing had never been an issue prior. The transgender student said that last year, she attended prom wearing a sparkly dress and high heels without any objection from school officials.
“I was being me, and I felt very accepted at the time,” she said. “I felt very understood. I felt that I had a great support system at that school.”
On May 18, L.B. and her parents Samantha Brown and Henry Brown, filed a federal lawsuit demanding Harrison County School District officials allow the teen to wear a dress during the graduation ceremony from Harrison Central High School.
In the suit, Mrs. Brown argued that after speaking to the school’s principal, she discovered that the dress code policy for graduation was different from the policy put in place throughout the school year.
According to the documents, the Harrison County School District’s policy on graduation stated that “Students are expected to wear dress shoes, dress clothes (dresses or dressy pant-suit for girls and dress pants, shirt, and tie for the boys).” But the dress code rules did not mention any specific guidelines for LGBTQ students, nor did it state that students must dress according to their gender assigned at birth.
“Graduation school dress policy is girls have to wear white dresses and boys wear a white button up shirt with a tie and black pants and socks with black dress shoes,” Brown told CNN. “This has never been an issue before. We felt like we were abiding by the dress code according to what she identifies as.”
Mrs. Brown and L.B. aren’t giving up without a fight.
After the judge ruled against the family’s motion, L.B. opted to miss her graduation. The suit notes that the young teen did not attend the ceremony because she “rather stand up for what’s right than be humiliated.”
“My graduation is supposed to be a moment of pride. My graduation is supposed to be a moment of pride and celebration and school officials want to turn it into a moment of humiliation and shame,” L.B. added in a statement.“The clothing I’ve chosen is fully appropriate for the ceremony and the superintendent’s objections to it are entirely unfair to myself, my family, and all transgender students like me. I have the right to celebrate my graduation as who I am, not who anyone else wants me to be.”
Brown plans to take further legal action against the school to defend her transgender daughter.
“She’s a good student, she made it to the finish line,” the concerned mother said. “That should be more of the things the children should be worried about rather than whether they will be targeted by what they identify as. The matriarch added, “We’re going to continue to speak on this and continue to fight for what we feel is right.”
CNN noted that Mitchell King, the Harrison County School District superintendent testified in court documents that the district relies on birth certificates to determine whether a student is male or female. The suit also included a phone conversation between Mrs. Brown and King, in which he reportedly referred to L.B. as “a boy.”
“He needs to wear pants, socks, and shoes, like a boy,” the superintendent allegedly said during the call.
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