Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Maine Supreme Judicial Court Hears Arguments In Case On Transgender Teenager Whose Family Forced To Sue Orono School District Over Her Use Of Girl’s Bathroom; 15-Year-Old Nicole Maines Says “I Wouldn’t Wish My Experience On Another Trans Person”

An update on a previous post: In Bangor, Maine, the teenager whose family has sued the Orono school district over her use of the girl’s bathroom six years ago said she did not want another transgender student to be subjected to a similar experience. “I wouldn’t wish my experience on another trans person,” Nicole Maines, 15, told reporters Wednesday outside the Penobscot Judicial Center. “We should be able to get an education, make friends and not worry about being bullied.” The girl, her parents, Wayne and Kelly Maines, and her twin brother, Jonas Maines, held an impromptu press conference after the Maine Supreme Judicial Court heard oral arguments in the case. “I just want to echo what my daughter said,” Wayne Maines told reporters. “We’re thankful for the opportunity to be here and to be able to be heard. We want our children to have the same opportunities other students have to be accepted. That’s all any parent wants.” He said that the children no longer attend school in Orono. The twins attend a private high school in Cumberland County where they have been accepted. “Nicole is treated by the school the same way her girlfriends are,” the father said. The justice’s questions focused on a conflict between a law passed in the 1920s that requires separate bathrooms for boys and girls in schools and the provision in the Maine Human Rights Commission that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The incident that sparked the court case began in 2007 when a child, who was born male but identifies as female, was forced to stop using the girls bathroom at the Asa Adams Elementary School in Orono. She was told to use a staff bathroom after the grandfather of a male student complained. The girl’s parents and the MHRC sued the Orono school district, now called Riverside RSU 26, and then Superintendent Kelly Clenchy after the commission ruled in the girl’s favor. Both sides have appealed the November decision of a Superior Court judge to the Maine Supreme Court. Justice William Anderson’s decision sided with the school district over the girl’s use of the student bathroom. The questions the court has been asked to decide by the Maines family include whether the exclusion of a transgender girl from a school’s communal girls’ restroom violate the Maine Human Rights Act because it prohibits a school from treating a transgender girl differently from all other girls and whether a school engage in unlawful segregation in violation of the MHRA when it denies a transgender girl access to the communal-use restroom and forces her to use a staff restroom? The school has acknowledged that it was not possible for the girl to use the boy’s bathroom, according to the brief filed by Bennett H. Klein, the Boston attorney for Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders who represents the Doe family. Melissa Hewey, the Portland attorney who represents the school district, said outside the courthouse that the issue of who has access to school bathrooms has not been addressed directly by the Legislature. A “friend of the court brief” was filed in the case by the following organizations: Maine Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Maine Psychological Association, the National Association of Social Workers-Maine Chapter, Trans Youth Equality Foundation, the Maine Women’s Lobby and the Downeast and Southern Maine chapters of the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network. There is no timeline under which the justices must issue a decision.

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