JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A Mississippi school district is refusing to let a transgender girl wear a dress and heeled shoes with her graduation cap and gown for high school graduation this weekend, her family says in a federal lawsuit against the district.
The lawsuit filed Thursday demands that the Harrison County School District allow the 17-year-old to wear what she wants as she and her classmates graduate from Harrison Central High School on Saturday.
The teenager is listed in court documents by her initials, L.B. The lawsuit said L.B. had worn dresses to classes and to extracurricular events throughout high school, including to a prom last year.
The Harrison Central principal, Kelly Fuller, told L.B. and her parents May 9 that the school on the Mississippi Gulf Coast would make L.B. follow a dress code requiring male students to wear white shirts, black slacks and black shoes for graduation, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing the family. The dress code says girls are to wear white dresses.
Fuller said the request to meet with L.B. about the dress code was prompted by Harrison County School District Superintendent Mitchell King, who had called to ask what transgender students were wearing to graduation, according to the lawsuit.
King told the teenager’s mother in a phone call that L.B. “needs to wear pants, socks, and shoes like a boy,” and King repeatedly misgendered L.B. as a boy, the ACLU said in a news release.
U.S. District Judge Sul Ozerden scheduled a Friday hearing on the family’s request for temporary restraining order against the school district.
Wynn Clark, attorney for the Harrison County School Board, declined to comment on the lawsuit Thursday.
“I have not read the entirety of their complaint,” Clark told The Associated Press.
The AP left phone messages Thursday for Fuller and King about the lawsuit, which says L.B. should not face discriminatory and unequal treatment.
“My graduation is supposed to be a moment of pride and celebration and school officials want to turn it into a moment of humiliation and shame,” L.B. said in the news release. “The clothing I’ve chosen is fully appropriate for the ceremony and the superintendent’s objections to it are entirely unfair to myself, my family and all transgender students like me. I have the right to celebrate my graduation as who I am, not who anyone else wants me to be.”
The lawsuit said L.B. “has lived every aspect of her high school career as a girl.”
“L.B. should be focused on celebrating this important milestone alongside her peers; however, this targeted attack by the leaders of the Harrison County School District seeks to strip her of her right to celebrate this occasion as her true self,” said McKenna Raney-Gray, staff attorney for the ACLU of Mississippi.