According to CNN, the 17-year-old student chose not to attend her graduation at Harrison Central High School in Gulfport, Mississippi because administrators mandated her to wear boy clothes.
Less than two weeks before the ceremony, the teen, identified as L.B. in court documents, said she was called into Principal Kelly Fuller's office to discuss what she was wearing to graduation.
“I told her I was going to wear a white dress, then she told me I was not going to be allowed to wear a dress, and I would have to wear boy clothes,” L.B said, noting that she's attended the school as a girl for the past four years. “And she stated that the Superintendent called her asking about what students would wear to graduation.”
No other students were asked about their graduation attire, L.B. added.
Backed by the ACLU of Mississippi, L.B. and her parents, Samantha Brown and Henry Brown, filed a federal lawsuit on Thursday (May 18), demanding the teen be allowed to wear what she wants to Saturday's graduation. In the suit, the Browns accused the school district of violating L.B.'s civil and First Amendment rights.
L.B.'s family also filed a motion in federal court asking a judge to grant her permission to wear the dress and heels at her graduation. The motion was denied on Friday (May 19), one day before the ceremony.
According to an ACLU press release, the 17-year-old was planning to wear her dress and heels with the traditional cap and gown as it fell within the guidelines of the school's dress code policy for female students. However, after a conversation with the principal, L.B. and her family learned there was a different policy for graduation.
A commencement participation agreement included in court documents shows L.B. and her mother agreed to follow certain conditions that were required to participate in the school's graduation ceremony. According to the graduation policy, “Students are expected to wear dress shoes, dress clothes (dresses or dressy pant-suit for girls and dress pants, shirt, and tie for the boys).”
The policy doesn't specify a dress code for LGBTQ students or if students are required to dress according to their sex assigned at birth.
“My graduation is supposed to be a moment of pride and celebration and school officials want to turn it into a moment of humiliation and shame,” L.B. said in the ACLU release. “The clothing I’ve chosen is fully appropriate for the ceremony and the superintendent’s objections to it are entirely unfair to myself, my family, and all transgender students like me. I have the right to celebrate my graduation as who I am, not who anyone else wants me to be.”
According to the Browns' lawsuit, L.B. previously attended the school's prom in a formal dress and heels without any issues or consequences.
Mitchell King, the superintendent of Harrison County School District, said the district uses students' birth certificates to record whether they are male or female, according to court documents. The Browns' lawsuit also cites a phone call between Samantha and King where the superintendent said L.B. “is still a boy,” and therefore “he needs to wear pants, socks, and shoes, like a boy.”