JACKSON, Miss. — A Mississippi school district is refusing to allow a transgender girl to wear a dress and heels with her cap and gown to graduate from high school 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 whatever she wants as she and her classmates graduate from Harrison Central High School on Saturday.
The teenager appears in court documents by her initials, LB. The lawsuit says LB had worn dresses to classes and extracurricular events during high school, including a prom last year.
Harrison Central Principal Kelly Fuller told LB and her parents on May 9 that the Mississippi Gulf Coast school would have LB follow a dress code that required male students to wear white shirts, black pants and black shoes for graduation, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, which represents the family. The dress code says that girls must wear white dresses.
Fuller said the request to meet with LB about the dress code was prompted by Harrison County School District Superintendent Mitchell King, who called to ask what transgender students wore to graduation, according to the lawsuit.
King told the teen’s mother in a phone call that LB “needs to wear pants, socks and shoes like a boy,” and King repeatedly mistook LB for a boy, the ACLU said in a news release.
U.S. District Judge Sul Ozerden scheduled a hearing for Friday on the family’s request for a temporary restraining order against the school district.
Wynn Clark, an attorney for the Harrison County School Board, declined to comment on the lawsuit Thursday.
“I have not read the entirety of your complaint,” Clark told The Associated Press.
The AP left phone messages Thursday for Fuller and King about the lawsuit, which says LB should not face discriminatory and unequal treatment.
“My graduation is supposed to be a moment of pride and celebration and school officials want to make it a moment of humiliation and shame,” LB said in the news release. “The clothes I chose are completely appropriate for the ceremony and the superintendent’s objections are completely unfair to me, my family and all transgender students like me. I have the right to celebrate my graduation as who I am, not as others want me to be.”
The lawsuit says LB “has lived through every aspect of her high school career as a girl.”
“LB should focus on celebrating this important milestone with his teammates; however, this attack led by Harrison County School District leadership seeks to strip her of her right to celebrate this occasion as herself,” said McKenna Raney-Gray, staff attorney for the ACLU of Mississippi.