Transgender kindergartner's parents file discrimination claim against St. Paul school

The parents of a transgender kindergartner have filed a charge of discrimination complaint against Nova Classical Academy, a K-12 St. Paul charter school.

Hannah and David Edwards say their child was unable to "take full advantage of Nova's educational opportunities because of her gender identity and expression."

When Edwards' child started Nova in September, the kindergartner identified as a "gender-nonconforming boy." Midway through the school year, the child transitioned into a transgender girl.

The complaint said the school denied the student's "ability to undergo a gender transition at Nova in a safe and timely way."

The complaint, which was filed with city's Department of Human Rights and Equal Economic Opportunity on March 24, was made public Monday by Gender Justice, a nonprofit law firm and advocacy organization that's representing David and Hannah Edwards in the case.

According to the complaint, the school planned to hold a training on gender issues in October 2015 as part of the school's anti-bullying week. The staff chose "My Princess Boy," a children's book about a gender-nonconforming boy who loves to dress as a girl.

"The school leadership stopped the staff from using the book and ultimately prevented the staff from delivering any effective proactive training," the complaint said. "In the face of an increasingly frightening environment, which included a series of public committee meetings and school board meetings filled with discriminatory comments and threats and misstatements of the law, the school leadership continued to appease factions of the community who denied the school's obligations to follow the law.

"By its actions, the leadership also forced our family and our minor child to be publicly outed in order to participate in decisions that would affect her safety."

Eric Williams, Nova's executive director, said he was notified about the discrimination charge against the school on April 4.

"At Nova we are committed to providing a school environment free of gender-bias and discrimination of any kind, where every student feels safe, welcomed, accepted and valued," he said in a statement. "We plan to respond to the complaint by denying the allegations. We will present evidence that the school has taken all due measures to protect the student's rights."

Nova's response is due on April 21.

The Edwards said they asked Nova throughout the school year to support their child's gender transition.

"After our child expressed a consistent, persistent, and insistent desire to socially transition from male to female," their complaint said, "we notified the school in early February 2016 that the time had come."

On Feb. 25, the parents met with school principal, the executive director and the school's attorney to come up with plans to ease their child's gender transition and finalize materials and information that would be presented to their daughter's classmates.

The next day, the family was informed that those plans were cancelled, the complaint said.

"Our child faced gender-based bullying and hostility from her first days at Nova," the parents said in the complaint. "The response of the school was frustrating and upsetting: while many on the staff were ready to take effective action, the school leadership repeatedly blocked or delayed those actions."

The Edwards withdrew their child from Nova on Feb. 29.

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