The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has announced that it will investigate a complaint that Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys, along with a family law attorney, filed against the City Schools of Decatur on behalf of a kindergartener who was sexually assaulted in her school bathroom. The complaint explains that the school’s new transgender restroom policy opened the door to the assault of a 5-year-old female student by a boy in the girls’ restroom at her elementary school.
“This situation was both deeply tragic and avoidable,” said ADF Legal Counsel Christiana Holcomb. “Schools have a duty to protect the privacy and safety of all students and Decatur Schools clearly failed this young girl. The current approach that many schools are taking of passing these transgender bathroom policies isn’t working; they fail to provide basic privacy or ensure the safety of all students.”
According to the complaint filed on May 22, Superintendent David Dude announced to staff “a policy that required all Decatur Schools to admit boys who identify as female into girls’ restrooms, locker rooms, and shower areas on school premises…based solely on the stated preference of the individual student….”
Following the adoption of the policy, the complaint notes, “Superintendent Dude and the Board were repeatedly warned through written statements and public comment that the Policy would unacceptably inflict the loss of privacy and loss of safe private spaces for girls.” The school district made no changes to the policy and, in November 2017, a boy was permitted—because of the policy—to enter the girls’ restroom, where he assaulted the girl, known by the initials “N.T.”
The DOE OCR enforces Title IX, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any education program or activity receiving federal assistance. The agency is investigating whether the school district failed to provide a prompt response to a report that N.T. was sexually assaulted, whether the implementation of this policy contributed to creating a hostile environment for the student and other girls in noncompliance with Title IX, and whether the district retaliated against the student’s parent for reporting the sexual harassment.
The school refused to change or alter its policy, forcing the mother to remove her daughter from the school for her emotional and physical safety.
“A school’s top priority is to protect the safety and bodily privacy of its students, period,” said ADF-allied attorney Vernadette Broyles with the Georgia Adoption & Family Law Practice, who co-filed the complaint with ADF. “Decatur School’s policies have created a stressful, unfair, and, as in this case, even unsafe environment—particularly for girls. We are grateful that OCR is investigating this tragedy, and we hope the agency helps this school district and others adopt commonsense solutions that protect the privacy and safety of all students.”
Broyles is among the nearly 3,200 attorneys allied with ADF and serves as local counsel for the student and her family.