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ACLU Files Title IX Complaint Against Harrison County School District for Dress Code Discrimination

JACKSON, Miss. — Today, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Mississippi filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) against Harrison County School District (HCSD) for implementing a sex-based dress code policy that perpetuates harmful stereotypes and discriminates against girls, especially students who are transgender or gender nonconforming.

The complaint was filed on behalf of Kimberly Hudson and her daughter, A.H., a 16-year-old transgender girl and rising junior at Harrison Central High School. HCSD’s dress code sets forth different requirements based on gender and requires students to “follow the dress attire consistent with their biological sex.” In one instance, A.H. was reprimanded by a school official and threatened with in-school suspension for wearing a dress to a regional band concert evaluation. Despite A.H.’s plea to participate, she was given an ultimatum to wear pants or face exclusion from the event.

Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any educational program or activity receiving federal financial assistance. The complaint argues that HCSD’s enforcement of sex-specific dress codes violates Title IX, perpetuating harmful stereotypes and excluding students from full participation in school activities.

“A.H.’s story is emblematic of other girls at Harrison County School District who have complained of the discriminatory dress code and hostile learning environment for LGBTQ+ students. HCSD has implemented sex-specific dress code policies that reinforce harmful sex stereotypes and create an environment where students are unfairly targeted and subjected to discriminatory enforcement practices,” said McKenna Raney-Gray, LGBTQ Justice Project staff attorney at the ACLU of Mississippi. “This has resulted in the loss of valuable class time, exclusion from school-sponsored events, and significant emotional distress for A.H. and other affected students.”

“Harrison County School District’s dress code forces students to follow rigid, binary sex stereotypes or risk being punished and excluded from school and extracurricular activities,” said Liza Davis, Skadden Fellow at the ACLU Women’s Rights Project. “Sex-specific dress code policies that require students to dress according to their sex assigned at birth are harmful to all students, and especially transgender and gender nonconforming students who seek to dress in alignment with their gender identity and expression.”

A.H. and her family demand that HCSD eliminate sex-based distinctions and other gendered language in its sex-specific dress code policies and discontinue its discriminatory dress code enforcement practices that target girls, especially transgender girls and gender nonconforming students. They also request that OCR open an investigation into HCSD focused on sex discrimination that violates Title IX, and take remedial steps to ensure that no students in HCSD are discriminated against based on sex.

“I’m deeply concerned about the discriminatory practices within Harrison County School District that have unfairly targeted my daughter, along with other students. Transgender and gender nonconforming students should not be forced to choose between participating in school events or remaining true to their gender identity,” said Kimberly Hudson, mother of A.H. “We urge HCSD to take immediate steps to revise its dress code policies and create a more inclusive environment where all students can thrive.”

A copy of the complaint can be found online here: https://www.aclu.org/documents/harrison-county-school-district-office-for-civil-rights-complaint

Originally published at https://www.aclu.org/press-releases/aclu-files-title-ix-complaint-against-harrison-county-school-district-for-dress-code-discrimination

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