ACLU Asks Federal Judge to Allow LGBT Support Groups to Join Lawsuit in Defense of LGBT-Inclusive School District Policies

March 12, 2018

Today the American Civil Liberties Union and ACLU of Michigan filed a motion in federal court asking to intervene in a lawsuit that was filed against Williamston Community Schools for adopting policies that prohibit discrimination against students for their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. The ACLU is representing Stand with Trans, a statewide organization that supports transgender youth and their families, and Williamston High School’s Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA), a student-run LGBT support group.

Read the motion to intervene.

“Children thrive in school when they are free from discrimination, harassment and bullying,” said Jay Kaplan, ACLU of Michigan LGBT Project staff attorney. “The school district’s policies protect all students regardless of their sexual orientation or identity.”

The lawsuit against the school district was filed in January by a group of parents and students who claim, among other things, that the district’s anti-discrimination policies violate parents’ rights by infringing on their religious and moral ideas about whom their children should be or with whom they should associate. The plaintiffs specifically object to the policies’ protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity, claiming that the policies force their children to share programs and facilities with transgender students and approve of “alternative sexual lifestyles.”

“LGBT students are at an increased risk for harassment and discrimination, and we know that inclusive school policies are a critical tool in preventing the negative health and educational outcomes that is the result of anti-LGBT discrimination,” said attorney Shayna Medley-Warsoff of the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation. “This lawsuit is a broad-based attack on LGBT students, and transgender students in particular.”

In the motion to intervene, the ACLU argues that the LGBT support groups should be permitted to join the case in order to represent the interests of LGBT students who will be directly impacted. They argue that the policies foster an educational environment that is safe, welcoming, and free from stigma and discrimination, as is required by law.  

In addition to Kaplan and Medley-Warsoff, Stand With Trans and the GSA are represented by John Knight from the ACLU, Dan Korobkin and Michael J. Steinberg of the ACLU of Michigan, and Deborah Kovsky-Apap and Matthew Lund of the Detroit law firm Pepper Hamilton LLP.