July 31, 2013
But you don’t often hear directly from the key staff members who make so much of what we do possible. Today, in this message from NCLR Staff Attorney Asaf Orr, you will hear the story of a young boy who made an impact far beyond his 14 years, and whose courage and refusal to be diminished will make life better for countless others like him. Asaf helped this young man make this day possible.
Between our brilliant staff, our inspiring clients, and your steadfast commitment to a vision of equality and justice, we will have many more days like this. I hope you will read about our victory below and make a gift in celebration of this win—and more to come.
Kate Kendell, Esq.
NCLR Executive Director
FROM THE DESK OF ASAF ORR, ESQ.
I first met Jordon* two years ago. At the time, he was just 12 years old, and he had already experienced extreme mistreatment from people at school—including the staff at his Southern California school district—for just one reason: Jordon is transgender. Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education announced a groundbreaking agreement resolving a complaint we filed on behalf of Jordon, who is now 14 and will soon start his freshman year in high school.
Jordon’s courage in the face of unrelenting discrimination has led to sweeping reforms. For the first time, the federal government acknowledged that federal law obligates school districts to provide transgender students with equal access to all sex-separated activities, programs, and facilities, such as restrooms and locker rooms, based on the student’s gender identity. The agreement also requires the school to retain a consultant to oversee the implementation of the district’s transgender-inclusive policies, including trainings for students and district- and school-level personnel.
Jordon and his parents filed their complaint in October 2011 after Arcadia Unified School District officials required him to sleep in a cabin by himself—instead of allowing him to room with his peers—on an overnight field trip. Not wanting to miss out on this important educational opportunity, he attended the field trip, but the experience was devastating. Jordon felt terribly isolated and singled out, as though he was being “quarantined” simply because he’s transgender.
Day after day, school district officials continued treating him differently than his peers, including requiring him to use the nurse’s office each time he had to use the restroom or dress for P.E. Because the nurse’s office was locked at the end of the school day, Jordon was not able to participate in after-school activities, which only increased his feelings of isolation and despair.When I called Jordon’s dad last week to share the news about the federal government’s decision, I could hear the relief in his voice. He would no longer have to worry about his son going to school in an unsafe environment, in a place that does not respect him for who he is.Shortly after the agreement was announced, I started receiving e-mails from parents around the country, some of whom I have never even met, thanking NCLR and me for all of our hard work and dedication to fight for transgender youth so they can attend school in a safe and supportive environment. One parent wrote:
“As the parent of a transgender child in California with a similar complaint (also represented by NCLR), I couldn’t help but burst into tears when I read this ruling. They are tears of joy, tears of relief, tears of hope, and tears of gratitude for everyone’s hard work and dedication to making schools more safe for our kids and helping to get them treated with the dignity that they deserve. Words truly cannot describe the impact that this ruling has on our children. As a mother, to know that this case gives the affirmation and protection by the federal government that our children should be treated with equality and dignity in their schools is an unbelievable relief.”
I have always felt deeply honored to work on behalf of these courageous young people and their families, whose love for their children keeps me going on the hardest of days. But this victory brought me to tears. The fortitude, courage, strength, and compassion of these NCLR clients reminds me that I have the greatest job in the world.
On behalf of myself and every family I work with and hear from across the country, thank you so much for the part you have played in helping us seek justice for Jordon. His victory belongs to all of us.
Asaf Orr, Esq.
NCLR Staff Attorney
P.S. Even as we celebrate this amazing victory, we know that transgender students in many places in this country still face enormous obstacles to full inclusion and respect. Just this week, I received calls from families in two different states, both battling with school districts that are refusing to support their child’s gender identity.
We know that so much more work lies ahead to ensure that every student has the safety and support they deserve—not just in some places, but in every school district in this country. Please help us make that day come even sooner than we could hope with a gift to NCLR today.
*Jordon’s real name has not been used, to protect his privacy as a minor.