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Parents of transgender 3rd grader sue the state over Tennessee school bathroom law

By Hannah Sarisohn, CNN

The parents of a third-grade transgender child in Tennessee filed a lawsuit in federal court this week, challenging a state law that prohibits transgender students, employees, and teachers from access to the bathroom, locker rooms and other sex-segregated facilities consistent with their gender identity.

The lawsuit was filed against the Williamson County Board of Education, and the Tennessee Department of Education in the District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee.

According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff identified as D.H. is a transgender girl who started third grade this week. D.H. was assigned male at birth and since age six has identified as a girl.

According to the lawsuit, the parents approached their child’s school to discuss the transition. “When A.H. and E.H. met with the Elementary School about how to support D.H. in her social transitioning, the Elementary School initially agreed to use “she/her” pronouns, but did not want to make a public announcement to students,” the lawsuit states.

After the discussion, the 2021 School Facilities Law was signed by Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, a Republican, and went into effect.

Under Tennessee’s bathroom law, a person can seek monetary damages if school officials allow a transgender person into a bathroom or locker room that does not correspond with their gender assigned at birth when others are present. The law also allows them to sue if they are required to stay in the same sleeping quarters with someone assigned the opposite gender at birth who is not a family member.

“At that time, D.H.’s parents made multiple attempts to speak with various school administrators about D.H.’s transition and how the Elementary School could best support D.H. By that time, however, the Elementary School administration could not provide D.H. with the support she needed to complete her social transition as the School Facilities Law had come into full effect, preventing D.H. from using the restrooms corresponding with her gender identity, unlike the rest of her non-transgender classmates,” the lawsuit states.

After the law was enacted, D.H.’s school accommodated the child by letting her use one of four single-occupancy restrooms, which the lawsuit claims “reinforce the differential treatment” of D.H.

“By singling out transgender students for disfavored treatment and explicitly writing discrimination against transgender people into State law, the School Facilities Law violates the most basic guarantees of equal protection under the U.S. Constitution and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972,” the suit claims.

The defendants are named as Williamson County Board of Education; Jason Golden, director of Williamson County Schools; the Tennessee Department of Education and Penny Schwinn, Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Education.

CNN has reached out to the attorneys representing D.H. and her parents.

CNN has also reached out to Williamson County Schools and the Tennessee Department of Education whose spokespeople declined to comment on pending litigation. CNN has not received comment from its requests to all members of the Williamson County School Board, County Schools Director Jason Golden, or state education director Penny Schwinn.

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