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A trans teen student athlete in Minnesota won a major victory in the battle against systemic transphobia yesterday. Nick Himley was barred from using the boy's locker room facilities at Coon Rapids High School during the 2015-16 school year even though he was a member of the boys' swim team. Himley, at the time a 16-year-old sophomore, had initially been permitted to use the boys' facilities along with his teammates, but the school board not long after forced him to use a segregated facility which subjected him to bullying from other students. As a result, he sued. This week, rather than continue with the case against them, the Anoka-Hennepin School District paid Himley a $300,000 settlement and agreed to ensure trans student athletes will be treated more equitably in the future.
"I wanted the school district and the school board to understand that how they allowed me to be treated was wrong, and to hopefully make things better for the next generation of students - not just at Anoka-Hennepin, but across Minnesota," Himley said in a statement.
Himley was represented in court by the advocacy groups Gender Justice and the American Civil Liberties Union. The young trans teen came out to classmates and staff in his freshman year at the school. Despite initially being allowed to use the locker facilities that matched his gender, Himley was later singled out for abuse from district officials who forced him to use a segregated facility because of his gender. No other students, male or female, were required to use separate facilities.
"This discrimination led to bullying and threats against his family," Gender Justice noted in a statement, resulting in "emotional distress and harm" for Nick and his family.
In addition to the cash payment, the Anoko-Hennepin School District agreed to take additional steps to ensure trans student are treated fairly in the future. These include developing policies consistent with existing anti-discrimination laws, training all staff and students on these policies, and "affirming that students of all gender identities are valued and welcome" in the district's schools.
The district issued a statement saying they were already implementing the steps and were "committed to providing a safe and respectful learning environment for all students and families including transgender and gender-nonconforming students."
The settlement comes against a background of increasing hostility to the trans community from elements of the right. Republicans have responded to losing the senate and presidency by pivoting to pass a series of transphobic bills at the state level, which would ban trans student athletes from playing sports according to the true gender and criminalize providing science-based medical care to trans youth. Such attempts to legalize transphobic discrimination remain highly popular with key Republican constituencies.