Anoka-Hennepin agrees to $300,000 settlement in transgender locker room case

The district has also agreed to develop a “policy to allow every student to use all facilities consistent with their gender identity.” 

Nick's mother speaks at a press conference in February 2019. (ACLU-MN/Facebook)

The Anoka-Hennepin School District has agreed to pay $300,000 in a settlement with a former student who identifies as male (a biological female) and was prevented from using the boys’ locker room.

The district has also agreed to develop a “policy to allow every student to use all facilities consistent with their gender identity.”

“I never want any student to experience the discrimination and cruelty I experienced from the adults at my school,” the student, referred to as N.H. and Nick H. in legal documents and press releases, said Tuesday.

“It means a lot to see the courts protect transgender students like me. Today’s settlement agreement makes it very clear that segregating transgender students doesn’t just dehumanize us, it violates our legal rights,” Nick added.

The settlement follows a September ruling from the Minnesota Court of Appeals, which found that public schools must allow transgender students to use the locker rooms of their choice in accordance with the Minnesota Human Rights Act.

The case centers around Nick’s experience at Coon Rapids High School, where Nick competed on the boys’ swim team and used the boys’ locker room without incident during the 2015-16 school year.

But the following school year, the Anoka-Hennepin School District required Nick to use an “enhanced privacy” changing area adjacent to the main boys’ locker room.

The district then informed Nick’s mother that her child would be disciplined for continuing to use the main boys’ locker room. This led to “bullying and threats against his family, causing Nick emotional distress and harm,” Nick’s attorneys said.

Nick’s mother sued the school district in February 2019 with the legal assistance of Gender Justice and the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota, and the Minnesota Department of Human Rights was permitted to join the lawsuit six months later.

A district court judge rejected the school district’s motion to dismiss the case and forwarded it to the appeals court, which said in its September ruling that the district violated the Minnesota Constitution’s equal protection clause as well as the Minnesota Human Rights Act.

“Over the past year, we’ve seen a growing wave of political attacks against the rights of transgender children to health care, education or even to play sports,” said Gender Justice Executive Director Megan Peterson. “Students like Nick need and deserve the same acceptance as their classmates. Instead, far too many are being targeted for discrimination by adults who should be watching out for them.”

ACLU staff attorney David McKinney said he hopes the settlement “puts every other school district in Minnesota on notice that discrimination will not be tolerated.”

According to the ACLU, Nick’s lawsuit was the second case brought against the Anoka-Hennepin School District over its “discriminatory policies regarding LGBTQ students.” The first lawsuit accused the district of allowing “uncontrolled bullying” that created “unequal access to education.”

The settlement comes as the Minnesota Legislature and state legislatures across the country consider bills to prohibit transgender girls (biological males) from competing in girls’ sports.