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Blue Springs School District could owe $4M in transgender discrimination case, appeals court rules

Blue School Lockers
Posted at 1:00 PM, Jun 04, 2024

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Missouri’s Western District Court of Appeals Tuesday overturned a Jackson County Circuit Court judge’s 2022 ruling in a transgender discrimination case against the Blue Springs School District.

The lawsuit was filed in 2015 by the family of transgender student R.M.A, who was prevented from using the boys' locker room at Delta Woods Middle School and the Freshman Center.

In December 2021, a Jackson County jury found the school district liable for sex discrimination and awarded the student’s family $4 million. In June 2022, a Jackson County judge amended the verdict, saying the student did not prove he was discriminated against based on his sex, granting a new trial in the case.

The case was eventually appealed to the Missouri appellate courts, which released its ruling Tuesday.

LINK | Read the appeals court's ruling

The appeals court ruled on several items of debate in the case, but on the issue of discrimination, the court found the district did indeed discriminate.

During testimony in the case, school district officials said they had a practice of relying on birth certificates to establish the sex of students and determine bathroom and locker room access.

The boy’s family had provided a birth certificate identifying his sex as male, but that did not change the district’s treatment of him as a female.

Ultimately, the student, R.M.A., was denied access to the boys’ locker room because of his genitalia — a requirement not made of other students.

“The evidence at trial, viewed in accordance with our standard of review, was that the school district discriminated against R.M.A. because he did not fit their stereotype of what a male should be,” the appeals court wrote in the ruling. “This is no different than discriminating against a male because he is not tall enough or not muscular enough.

"The Blue Springs School District is disappointed by the reversal of the circuit court's decision and the remand," a Blue Springs School District spokesperson said. "The District is weighing its legal options, and because of the pending nature of this case, we cannot comment further."