Transgender and gender non-binary teens are at a greater risk of sexual assault in schools that prevent them from using bathrooms or locker rooms consistent with their gender identity, according to one study. Of the students (ages 13-17) surveyed, 25.9% reported being victims of sexual assault. For non-transgender teens, the rates of sexual assault were reported as 15% for girls and 4% for boys. Transgender or gender non-binary teens who faced restrictive access to restrooms or locker rooms reportedly experienced a 36% rate of sexual assault.
Many wonder if the bathroom and locker room policies set forth by the schools in which these students attended may have played a role in the sexual violence that took place. If the schools didn’t take the proper measures to ensure the safety of their students, there may be grounds to file a civil lawsuit. In this article, we discuss statistics and cases of transgender sexual assault in schools around the country, laws regarding sexual assault, and how to seek justice if you or a loved one has been a victim of sexual assault.
Statistics Regarding Transgender Sexual Assault and Public Restrooms
Statistics indicate that many within the transgender community avoid public restrooms for various reasons.
- Eight percent of transgender people say avoidance of public restrooms caused UTIs or kidney issues.
- Twelve percent of transgender youth are sexually assaulted by peers or staff in a K-12 setting.
- Thirty-two percent of transgender people surveyed said they limited food or drink to avoid using a restroom.
- Seventy percent of transgender students have avoided the bathrooms at school due to harassment.
High Profile Cases of Transgender Sexual Assault Spark Debate
Several high-profile cases highlight the fact that bathroom use policies are a serious concern among the transgender community in schools across the country:
- It took four years, but in 2018, a federal court ruled in favor of Gavin Grimm, who sued his Virginia school district for preventing him from using the boys’ bathroom. Later that year, federal courts ruled in favor of trans students in Florida and Pennsylvania who were prohibited from using restrooms consistent with their identities.
- In 2016, North Carolina became the first state to pass a “bathroom bill,” expressly banning people from using public bathrooms that didn’t correspond with the biological sex listed on their birth certificates. North Carolina’s law was repealed a year later.
- In 2016, 19 other states considered bathroom bill laws. In over half the states, schools were the primary targets for restriction.
- California became the first and only state to give students in grades K-12 the right to use bathrooms and locker rooms based on their affirmed gender identity. In a separate bill, teens and adults were also allowed to put the gender they most identify with or non-binary on their driver’s licenses.
Laws Against Sexual Assault in Schools
Several laws outline a school’s responsibility to students, regardless of their gender identity:
- Under Title IX, school systems are required to conduct an investigation if a student reports sexual assault. Since 1972, this law has safeguarded students from discrimination based on sexual identity, among other things, while engaging in educational or extracurricular pursuits funded by the federal government. Schools risk losing federal funding if they fail to take action to protect students from further harassment.
- Further, California has a mandatory reporter law that requires school personnel to report suspected or known cases of sexual harassment directly to law enforcement.
- Assembly Bill 1732 requires all public restrooms to add a gender-neutral toilet or urinal.
- Assembly Bill 2119 gives transgender foster youth access to expanded medical services like counseling, hormone therapy, and surgery. In 2018, California was the only state to provide such legislation.
Can I Sue a School District for Transgender Sexual Assault?
In the aftermath of sexual assault, you may be wondering, “Can I sue my school district for sexual assault that could’ve been prevented if my gender identity had been honored?” The short answer is: YES!
The reasons to take legal action go far beyond the bathroom doors. There have been cases where teachers repeatedly interrogated transgender students or even tried to “convert” them.
There are several avenues you can pursue, depending on the facts surrounding your case. You can file a police report and pursue criminal charges against the individual attacker. If there is credible evidence, the district attorney may seek jail time, probation, or sex offender registry for the assailant.
In addition, you may contact a civil attorney to inquire about filing a civil lawsuit seeking financial redress for losses you may have suffered. These losses may include medical expenses, counseling, medication, lost wages, mental anguish, as well as pain and suffering.
The scope of liability extends to include:
- the individual perpetrator
- the school itself
- the school district
- staff members accused of discrimination
- mandatory reporters who knew or should have known of the assault, but failed to act
Do not be discouraged if your criminal case fails. With a broadened scope of liability and a lower standard of evidence in civil court, you can still seek justice.
Contact an Experienced Sexual Assault Attorney
Contacting a civil attorney is another option which can hold third parties such as schools and school districts liable for failing to protect you or your loved one. Many civil lawsuits result in compensation to cover medical expenses, lost wages, and emotional pain.
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