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April 26, 2013

ACLU threatens legal action against Red Lion School District in transgender case

— The American Civil Liberties Union has demanded Red Lion Area School District apologize to the transgender high school student involved in the prom king controversy.

The ACLU said Issak Wolfe, a senior Red Lion student whose birth name is Sierra Stambaugh, should be issued an apology by the district after high school principal Mark Shue decided to place Wolfe on the prom court ballot under prom queen and under his birth name, despite Wolfe identifying himself as a transgender male for several years and asking to run as a prom king candidate.

The demand is part of a letter dated April 26 sent to the district. Legal action could be sought, according to Molly Tack-Hooper, ACLU staff attorney, although the ACLU hopes it won't come to that.

"There's very clear liability for the school district," Tack-Hooper said, citing similar situations around the country.

Tack-Hooper added that Shue had said he wants to bar Wolfe's girlfriend, Taylor Thomas, who is not a current Red Lion student, from attending prom on Saturday, April 27, because she made critical remarks about Red Lion on Facebook.

The ACLU is demanding that Wolfe and his girlfriend be allowed to attend prom together. Tack-Hooper said Thomas has since removed some of the more scathing remarks out of cooperation, although Tack-Hooper said the ACLU believes Thomas shouldn't have needed to do so.

Also, Wolfe wants to be able to walk at graduation in the boy's graduation garments, which are black, instead of the yellow cap and gown for girls. The ACLU is demanding that by Friday, May 3, Red Lion informs Wolfe they will announce him as "Issak Wolfe" at graduation and allow him to wear the boy's cap and gown.

Wolfe previously said he understands the diploma, which is a legal document, would still have his legal name on it, since he hasn't changed it yet.

Red Lion Superintendent Scott Deisley was not immediately available for comment. He previously said the district declined to comment on the situation to "respect the privacy" of those involved.

Tack-Hooper said Red Lion also needs to make an anti-discrimination policy so that this won't happen again.

"(Wolfe) is concerned about other transgendered students down the line," Tack-Hooper said.

No monetary damages are being sought as part of the demands. Tack-Hooper said Red Lion is violating Title IX of the Civil Rights Act, which deals with gender discrimination, as well as the equal protection clause in the Constitution.

 

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