by Vivian Tran
On Feb. 19, a Virginia judge dismissed a lawsuit that was brought up in opposition of the inclusion of LGBT students and staff in Fairfax County Public Schools’ nondiscrimination policy.
FCPS added sexual orientation to their nondiscrimination policy in Nov. 2014 and they later added gender identity and expression in May 2015.
Fairfax County School Board was sued by Andrea Lafferty of the Traditional Values Coalition, on behalf of an anonymous FCPS student and his parents. Lafferty, who is also a Fairfax County resident, has gained a reputation as an anti-LGBT activist. She has been a key speaker against Fairfax County School Board’s decision to include LGBT students and staff in their nondiscrimination policy. She has also spoken up against FCPS’ decision to implement a gender identity curriculum.
The lawsuit was filed on Dec. 31, but it was not brought before a judge until Feb. 19. The plaintiffs were represented by Mat Staver of the Liberty Counsel, the infamous anti-LGBT lawfirm that represented Kim Davis.
In their lawsuit, the plaintiffs claimed that an anonymous FCPS student was troubled by the school board’s actions. He claimed to be anxious about unintentionally offending transgender students, he also claimed that he was terrified at the thought of having to share intimate spaces with students who were biologically female.
“It’s stupid to assume that if you are in a setting where there are different types of people that you would go about your entire life without meeting someone gay or trans, even if you aren’t in the most diverse state. You’re still going to meet gay and trans people in your life, there’s just no way around it. It’s growing as a cultural aspect,” Gay-Straight Alliance member and junior Vina Herrera.
In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs also argued that the policy violated a Virginia law known as Dillon’s Rule. This rule defines the extent of power that local governments have and it also restricts local government, as well as school boards, from passing bills and policies that surpass state laws. The plaintiffs argued that since Virginia’s anti discrimination laws do not include sexual orientation and gender identity, then FCPS does not have the jurisdiction to include sexual orientation and gender identity in their nondiscrimination policy.
“I don’t think the argument the anonymous student made was reasonable at all. Everyone is going to be uncomfortable at some point in their life. Plus he hasn’t actually been in that type of situation. I guess the Dillon’s rule argument is somewhat reasonable, but we’ll just be discriminating against a group of people if we overturn the policy,” said sophomore Tasneem Osman.
Although some students may seem uncomfortable with the idea of sharing an intimate space with someone of a biologically different gender, there are cases where transgender students must struggle with even the simple task of changing in the locker room.
“I recently met informally with the mother of a transgender 7th Grade student who is in an FCPS middle school. This is a male-to-female transgender. The student is now presenting as a female and has been put on puberty blocker drugs, although not female hormones as of yet. For PE class, she is changing in a storage room close to the gym,” said Stuart’s Gay-Straight Alliance sponsor John Hiltz, “The question becomes how do we protect the rights of these students? If this student I know about goes on hormones, she will start developing a female body, including breasts, although she cannot have sex reassignment surgery until she is over 18. Where does she fit in? Part of the answer is how other students view her, and is it a big deal or something that even matters to them.”
The lawsuit was dismissed because the judge said that the client lacked standing. The client did not have standing to sue because there was no injury, such as the threat of expulsion and suspension. Liberty Counsel states that they plan to appeal, but no further events have occurred.
“Here are still students being harassed in this school for the perception that they are gay. I have also known of instances where staff members at other school have been targeted for the perception they are gay. This is 2016, and people should not be discriminated against because of the way that they are, “ said Hiltz.