Trans student banned from boys’ locker room wins $300,000 settlement from school district

Nick Himely speaks to a web camera against a light brown background

A trans teen barred from using the boys’ locker room will receive $300,000 from a Minnesota, US, school district.

Nick Himley made waves as a swimmer at the Coon Rapids High School in the 2015-16 school year as a 16-year-old.

While initially allowed to use the boys’ locker room the school board abruptly barred him after a few months – use it and face punishment, he was told.

Himley was forced to use a segregated facility rarely used by students and was bullied as a result. So, he took legal action against the Anoka-Hennepin School District – and won.

The American Civil Liberties Union, one of the country’s oldest civil rights organisations, announced Tuesday (23 March) that the school district has agreed to settle the discrimination lawsuit as well as make trans-inclusive policy changes.

“I wanted the school district and the school board to understand that how they allowed me to be treated was wrong, and to hopefully make things better for the next generation of students – not just at Anoka-Hennepin, but across Minnesota,” Himley said in a press release by advocacy group Gender Justice.  

It’s a thumping legal win at a time when Republicans are furiously trying to roll back the rights of trans teens, attacking their rights to healthcare and even the simple act of playing sports.

Minnesota’s largest school district vows to no longer discriminate trans teens

Alongside the $300,000 settlement, the Anoka-Hennepin School District, the largest school district in Minnesota, will introduce various reforms for trans students.

Crucially, this will include a new rule that allows every student to use school facilities according to their gender. A complaints procedure will also be introduced, alongside training for board members, educators and students.

The district will also reaffirm its commitment to the Minnesota Human Rights Act by no longer discriminating against trans students.

It’s worlds away from the treatment Himely faced during his time at Coon Rapids.

Himley came out as trans to his classmates and teachers just before starting his freshman year in 2015. But by the following year, the school board had blocked him from using the boys’ locker room and threatened him with discipline if he did.

According to Gender Justice, singling out Himley and making him use different facilities to the rest of the boys “led to bullying and threats against his family, causing Nick emotional distress and harm”.

“Over the past year, we’ve seen a growing wave of political attacks against the rights of transgender children to health care, education, or even to play sports,” the press release said.

“Students like Nick need and deserve the same acceptance as their classmates. Instead, far too many are being targeted for discrimination by the very adults who should be watching out for them. ”

Indeed, Himley’s victory throws a wrench into the work of Republican lawmakers and leaders who, tacticians say, are treating trans youth as a “wedge issue” to sweep up voters.

Across some 25 states, the GOP is bulldozing bills that fiercely limit the lives of trans youth.

Some have made it a felony offence for trans kids to receive gender-affirming care, others seek to stop trans girls from playing in women’s sports – for reasons Republicans have struggled to even give.