Last week, 8-year-old Nicole Brar and her parents filed a lawsuit with the Orange County Superior Court alleging that her school would not recognize Brar's true gender.
Brar is a transgender girl. When she entered the school, Heritage Oak Private Education in Yorba Linda, CA, she presented as a boy and was using he/him pronouns. Since she came out, the school has allegedly not allowed Brar to use the restroom of her choice, dress in girl's clothing, or referred to her using she/her pronouns.
The girl's parents, Priya Shah and Jaspreet Brar, are suing the school both for discrimination and for false advertising since Heritage Oak Private Education markets the school as non-discriminatory and says that they "focus on the whole child," the Los Angeles Times reports.
“It honors our child's commitment to being who she is despite adversity,” Shah said of their decision to file the lawsuit. “It is our small contribution toward ensuring that other transgender and gender expansive children do not go through the same hardship and trauma.”
According to the lawsuit, Brar socially transitioned over the course of several months from the beginning of the school year when she was still presenting as a boy, but her parents and the school were both aware that she was questioning her gender until December when she had fully transitioned.
In January, the lawsuit says, the school refused to allow her to wear a girl's uniform. She was also not allowed to use the girl's restroom at school, but could use a staff restroom. Phyllis Cygan, executive director of the school, who had been aware of Brar's transition from the beginning of the school year allegedly told her parents that explaining her gender identity to the students would “create an imbalance.”
Kerry Owens, a vice president at an advertising firm called MGH, released a statement on behalf of the school claiming that Heritage Oak has worked with older transgender kids to help them socially transition but were wary given Brar's age.
“We believed it was extremely important to respond, not hastily, but with deliberate care, to decide when and how to inform and educate our entire elementary school community of students, staff and parents about the mid-year change of gender identity expression of a young child,” the statement read, according to the Los Angeles Times. “Due to the sensitivity of the issue and age of the child, we believed we needed expert guidance regarding timing (such as, preparing children for a change they would see in spring semester of second grade and fall semester of third grade), process and age-appropriate communication.”
But Mark Rosenbaum, the Shah-Brar family's lawyer, doesn't believe this case comes down to poor timing. He told the Los Angeles Times that the school “created roadblocks and ultimately refused to meet the undisputed needs of a young transgender student in their care.”
Brar experienced bullying from kids at school as a result of the administration's refusal to acknowledge her gender, the lawsuit claims. And as a result of the bullying and continuing to feel trapped in her body, once asked her parents if she could "suicide herself" because "life is really hard."
Brar has since been taken out of Heritage Oak, and will start in a new school this year.
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