On May 3, the Maine Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and other child welfare organizations filed an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief with the Maine Supreme Judicial Court in support of a transgender girl who experienced discrimination and harassment at her Orono school.
The student, known by the pseudonym Susan Doe, and her parents have filed a lawsuit against the Orono school district alleging violations of a statewide law prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity and expression in all areas, including public education and public accommodations.
Besides the pediatric organization, other signatories on the brief are: the Maine Psychological Association, the National Association of Social Workers – Maine Chapter, the Maine Women’s Lobby; Parents, Families and Friends of LGBT People (PFLAG) Portland; PFLAG Machias, PFLAG National; Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) Southern Maine; GLSEN Downeast Maine and the Trans Youth Equality Foundation.
The brief states that transgender children need to be treated like any other girls and boys in all aspects of school life – including access to bathrooms consistent with their gender identity – in order to succeed in their educational, social and emotional development.
“Transgender children thrive when they are treated like other girls and boys, and they are harmed when they are singled out and made to feel—and to be seen by others—as different,” the brief states. “This singling out and differential treatment inevitably stigmatizes these young people in the eyes of their peers. That can lead to social isolation which predictably also disrupts their ability to learn. In addition to this immediate negative impact, the resulting stigma from singling out transgender children and branding them as ‘different’ or ‘deficient’ can do serious and irreparable harm to their long-term emotional and psychological development.”
Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) and Jodi L. Nofsinger of Berman & Simmons, P.A. are representing Susan Doe in the lawsuit, known as Doe v. Clenchy. The litigation arose after officials at an Orono elementary school denied the student, who was then in the fifth grade, use of the girls’ restroom. The school had previously allowed Doe to use the girls’ room until it reversed course after the misconduct of one male student who followed Susan into that facility.
Shannon Price Minter, the legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, authored the brief on behalf of the amici, with assistance and cooperation from Richard O’Meara of Murray Plumb & Murray. O’Meara is local counsel for the amici.
“It’s heartening that a respected group of medical professionals like the Maine Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and other experts are underscoring for the court how critical it is for transgender children to be fully integrated into the life of their schools, and how detrimental is when they aren’t,” said Minter. “This is not just a legal issue. Research and experience show that when transgender youth have the support of their families, their schools and other institutions central to their lives, they can thrive and grow into happy, healthy adults.”