A transgender 8-year-old girl and her parents are suing her former Orange County private school for allegedly preventing her from expressing her gender identity.
Nicole Brar could remain anonymous but has chosen not to, the Los Angeles Times reported, and her mother, Priya Shah, said the family thought long and hard before filing the lawsuit.
“It honors our child’s commitment to being who she is despite adversity,” she told The Times in an email. “It is our small contribution toward ensuring that other transgender and gender expansive children do not go through the same hardship and trauma.”
The lawsuit filed last week in Orange County Superior Court alleges that Heritage Oak Private Education in Yorba Linda would not let Nicole, who goes by Nikki, dress as she chose, use the bathroom of her choice and go by female pronouns.
The complaint contends the school violated the Unruh Civil Rights Act, a California law that outlaws a broad range of discrimination, including by sex or sexual orientation, and that it fraudulently advertised itself as nondiscriminatory and focused on the “whole child.”
“This is the first (transgender rights) case to use a state anti- discrimination law as one of the grounds for relief,” said Mark Rosenbaum, who directs the pro bono Public Counsel Opportunity Under Law, which has taken on the lawsuit along with several law school professors, The Times reported.
The lawsuit names Heritage Oak and its executive director Phyllis Cygan, as well as the school’s parent group, Nobel Learning Communities, which is headquartered in Pennsylvania, and its regional director, Kate Taylor. Cygan did not respond directly to requests for comment.
But Kerry Owens, a vice president at an advertising firm called MGH, forwarded a statement saying that Nobel schools have met the needs of older transgender students. The statement suggests Nicole’s case is different.
The school hired an outside consultant and was communicating with the family to discuss accommodations, the statement said, but “unfortunately, these accommodations were rejected and the parents withdrew their child.”
In January, the school insisted that Nikki wear a boy’s uniform. The school said she would have access to a staff bathroom, but she couldn’t go to the bathroom used by her female classmates. Cygan declined their other demands, calling the school a “conservative institution” in which Nikki’s transition would “create an imbalance,” the complaint says.
—City News Service