The Maine Human Rights Commission ruled Monday that Orono Middle School unlawfully discriminated against a sixth-grader during the 2008-2009 school year by not letting the male-to-female transgender student use the girls' bathroom.
The commission's investigator cited in her report derogatory remarks made by other students as well as several allegations of stalking by a boy who harassed her by calling her "faggot."
But the commissioners said there were "no reasonable grounds" to believe the school subjected the student to a hostile educational environment.
No reasonable grounds?
This is the same school system which ignored a similar ruling from the previous year.
The family's lawyer said they filed the complaint because the school's policies remain unchanged.
"[Orono Middle School] continued to discriminate against the child after the last [commission] decision. It is clear we have to pursue this further to get them to comply," attorney Jodi Nofsinger said Monday after the ruling.
Nofsinger said the legal battle stretched beyond this one child and is more about making the Orono schools comfortable educational environments for other transgender children who might attend the schools in the future.
"They continue [discrimination] up until the present time. They are in violation to the law," Nofsinger said. "The school's policy still has not changed."
While I applaud the Commission's recognition that a trans child should be permitted to use the restroom facilities in accord with their gender identity, I say there is something wrong with a Commission that is willing to look the other way at discrimination and harassment of a young person in the public schools. Have they not been listening during the past few weeks, when we have all seen the horrific effects of bullying come home to roost with the suicide of several young people?
At the same time, kudos are deserved for the fact that the Commission is discussing plans to work in coordination with the state education commissioner to develop rules regarding sexual orientation, race, national origin and disabilities as they apply to education under the Maine Human Rights Act.
It is time that we recognized that harassment and discrimination against our young people can no longer be tolerated in a civilized society.