An Anoka County district judge has rejected the Anoka-Hennepin School District's effort to have a discrimination case filed by a transgender student tossed — and is allowing the Minnesota Department of Human Rights to join in the lawsuit.
"There can be no doubt that this case raises an important public issue of statewide significance that should be decided immediately," District Judge Jenny Walker Jasper wrote in a 31-page ruling issued Monday.
The student, N.H., who had been a member of the Coon Rapids High boys' swim team in 2015-16, alleges the district discriminated against him by not allowing him to use the boys' locker room.
In a lawsuit filed in February, the student alleges that the school board directed that he be required, instead, to use an enhanced-privacy bathroom that had been constructed as part of a locker-room remodeling in the summer of 2016.
N.H. was the only student who was required to use the bathroom and changing area, and no other enhanced-privacy locker rooms were created elsewhere in the state's largest school district, the suit alleges.
"Separate never has been, and never will be, equal," Irina Vaynerman, deputy commissioner of the state Human Rights Department, said in a news release Tuesday about the department being allowed to join in the case. The state's human rights act protects everyone from gender identity discrimination, Vaynerman said.
According to the lawsuit, the Anoka-Hennepin district created a "school planning guide" on how to work with transgender and gender nonconforming students that called for the use of restrooms and locker rooms by transgender students to be determined on a "case-by-case basis."
In addition, the district argued in its effort to have the lawsuit tossed that the Minnesota Supreme Court had ruled in a 2001 case that an employer's designation of employee restrooms based on biological gender did not violate the state's human rights act.
Jasper rejected that argument by noting that school districts are covered by a separate provision of the law stating that educational institutions cannot discriminate against anyone based on their sexual orientation.
The judge said an eventual resolution of the arguments will "eliminate the need for the school district's arbitrary 'case-by-case' decisionmaking."
A jury trial is set for March.