MARENGO, Ohio — A federal judge ordered an Ohio school district on Monday to treat a male elementary school student who identifies as female “as the girl she is,” including allowing him to use the girls restroom and referring to the child with feminine pronouns.
“The court orders school district officials to treat Jane Doe as the girl she is, including referring to her by female pronouns and her female name and allowing her to use the girls’ restroom at Highland Elementary School,” wrote Judge Algenon Marbley, nominated to the bench by then-President Bill Clinton.
The matter centers around an 11-year-old student at Highland Elementary School in Marengo. His name has not been released because he is a minor.
The child was diagnosed with gender dysphoria by mental health professionals at age 4, and his parents were advised that he “socially transition” as means to treat his condition. By the time he completed kindergarten, his parents asked Principal Shawn Winkelfoos to allow the boy to use the girls’ restroom and have school records reflect his “chosen name and correct gender marker.”
But Winkelfoos declined the request and advised that the child could use the unisex staff restroom, citing the district policies. He again did so the following year.
The child’s parents assert that the boy suffered from depression over the arrangement, and in 2014, he was admitted to the hospital after having suicidal thoughts. They later filed a complaint with the federal Office of Civil Rights (OCR), and also took the matter to Superintendent William Dodds, who saw nothing improper with the child using the staff restroom. The Board of Education voted similarly.
Last August, the child attempted suicide, but the school states that he exhibited no anger issues while at school and that counselors had sought to help him with an eating disorder and other health issues.
In March of this year, OCR that the district was in violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. It sought through a resolution agreement to force officials to allow the boy to use the girls’ restroom, but the district refused and instead filed suit.
In the meantime, the OCR sent the district a letter advising that it would initiate proceedings to either “suspend, terminate, or refuse to grant or continue financial assistance to the district or refer the case to the U.S. Department of Justice for judicial proceedings.”
On Monday, Judge Marbley sided with the parents, issuing a preliminary injunction while the case moves forward in court.
“The stigma and isolation Jane feels when she is singled out and forced to use a separate bathroom contribute to and exacerbate her mental-health challenges,” he wrote. “This is a clear case of irreparable harm to an eleven-year-old girl.”
The district has already filed a notice of its intent to appeal.
“Schools have a duty to protect the privacy, safety, and dignity of all students, but the judge’s order today doesn’t allow the Highland Local School District to do that,” said Legal Counsel Doug Wardlow of Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing the district in court.
“Allowing boys in girls’ restrooms completely disregards the privacy needs and rights of all the girls who are rightfully and understandably concerned,” he stated. “The school district must consider them as well, and that’s why it crafted a sound policy which respects the privacy concerns of all children and at the same time respects the diverse needs of individual children.”