BANGOR, Maine — A Superior Court judge will decide whether a lawsuit filed by an Orono couple over the local school district’s handling of their transgender child’s transition from male to female will go forward.
Justice William Anderson heard oral arguments on motions for summary judgments Wednesday morning at the Penobscot Judicial Center.
The family, along with the Maine Human Rights Commission, sued the district in November 2009. Defendants in the lawsuit include Kelly Clenchy, the former superintendent of the Orono School District, now Riverside RSU 26, and officials at Asa Adams School.
The family and their child are not identified in the lawsuit but are referred to as the Does. They are seeking damages, claiming the mother and the two children, both identical twin boys, were forced to move to Portland to find a more supportive school environment. The father remained in Orono, where he is employed by the University of Maine.
Last year, Anderson dismissed a portion of the most controversial claim that administrators at Asa Adams School were obligated under the Maine Human Rights Act to allow the transgender child to use the girls bathroom rather than a restroom for staff.
“[T]his ‘accommodation’ claim would impose upon Superintendent Clenchy and the various school entities defending this suit an obligation to accommodate [the child’s] transgender status by allowing her to continue using the girls’ bathrooms consistent with her gender identity,” the judge wrote. “Neither the language of the [Maine Human Rights Act], the language of the [Maine Human Rights Commission’s] own internal regulations, nor prevailing case law interpreting the Civil Rights Act requires this type of accommodation.”
The judge allowed the claim that the school discriminated against the child when she was at Asa Adams School and another seeking damages to go forward. The original complaint has been amended to include other alleged incidents during her year at Orono Middle School.
On behalf of the school district, attorney Melissa Hewey of Portland has denied all the allegations outlined in the amended complaint.
Bennett Klein is the family’s attorney. Klein works for Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders in Boston.