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Facts: A middle school in Texas required that parents cut their non-binary child’s hair. The child was born male and therefore having long hair violated the school’s dress code. When the child refused to cut their hair, they were placed on in-school suspension. The child’s parent tried to explain that the child’s hair was part of their identity, but this did not change the school’s stance.
The child’s parents reached out to the ACLU while their child was on in-school suspension for 10 days. The ACLU helped the child’s parent and parents of other children punished for dress-code violations file a lawsuit against the school. The suit alleged Fourteenth Amendment violations because the dress code was discriminating against the students based on gender. The lawsuit also alleged Title IX violations, alleging the students were discriminated against based on gender and gender stereotypes.
After the lawsuit was filed, U.S. District Court Judge Lee H. Rosenthal ordered the school to allow the students in suspension to resume regular classes. After this, the school district came to an agreement with the parents who filed the suit, and the lawsuit was dropped. The agreement included that the school would change their dress code to removed gendered language.
What this means: Although there was no official ruling in this case, school districts should be careful when crafting their dress codes and grooming policies. Schools cannot discriminate based on gender when crafting policies.
Read the lawsuit here.
As you consider these and other issues, we recommend you speak with your school lawyer or contact Bea, Megan, Beth, and Kevin at 406-542-1300 to discuss these issues.