ANOKA, Minn. — The Anoka-Hennepin school district has agreed to pay $300,000 to a transgender student who was barred from using the locker room that matched his gender identity.
Then a freshman at Coon Rapids High School, Nick H. used the boys locker room for gym classes and swim team practices in 2015-16 until the school board got involved and he was told to use a single-occupancy changing room instead.
“All of the sudden it was like I was going to be in trouble if I used the boys locker room. I did rebel and I did use the regular boys locker room and then I was sent to the principal’s office the next day,” he told reporters Tuesday, March 13.
Nick, who was hospitalized multiple times for emotional distress as the school board considered what to do with him, later changed schools and then sued the school district in 2019.
“Prior to the school board’s discriminatory actions, Nick had been doing well academically and socially at school. Then he started getting bullied and getting threats, causing him severe emotional distress,” ACLU attorney David McKinney said.
An Anoka County district judge in 2019 denied the school district’s request to dismiss the lawsuit. The state Court of Appeals backed that decision last year, finding that Anoka-Hennepin discriminated against Nick by requiring him to use a separate locker room.
The school district sought to settle the case following those rulings.
Under terms of the settlement agreement, Anoka-Hennepin’s insurer will pay $110,000 to Nick’s attorneys and $190,000 toward an annuity for Nick, to be paid out in monthly $1,000 payments for 18 years.
It also requires Anoka-Hennepin to adopt a policy that allows transgender and gender nonconforming students to use school facilities consistent with their gender identity. The district also must train all staff, students and board members on that policy each year for the next three years.
Anoka-Hennepin said Tuesday it already has modified its policies and procedures and has begun training.
“The district is committed to providing a safe and respectful learning environment for all students and families including transgender and gender nonconforming students,” the district said in a statement.
McKinney said the settlement should send a message to school districts.
“If (students) are treated differently, if they are discriminated against because they are transgender, it will not be tolerated, and school districts will be held accountable,” he said.
Nick, now 20, said Tuesday that it was difficult to relive an embarrassing time in his life, but he hoped the lawsuit would “make things better for the next generation of students.”