Mississippi Attorneys Debate Lawsuit Concerning Transgender Student’s Graduation Attire

Opposing attorneys clashed Friday over whether a Mississippi school district may order a transgender girl to wear a boys’ uniform. At the same time, she and her classmates graduated from high school this weekend.

The 17-year-old girl, identified by her initials L.B. in court documents, had chosen a dress to wear with her cap and gown Saturday at Harrison Central High School in Gulfport, a seaside town about 160 miles (260 kilometers) south of Jackson.

Graduating boys should wear white shirts and black slacks while graduating girls should wear white dresses.

 In a complaint filed Thursday against the Harrison County School District, authorities advised L.B. that she had to match the boys’ attire standards for graduation.

Mississippi Attorneys Debate Lawsuit Concerning Transgender Student's Graduation Attire

L.B. wore dresses to courses and extracurricular activities throughout high school, including a prom last year, and she should not face discrimination during graduation.

“L.B. and her parents have suffered significant emotional distress, humiliation, shame, and anxiety, as well as fear that they will be forced to miss this important moment in L.B.’s personal life and academic career.”

The Harrison County School Board’s attorney, Wynn Clark, stated in court filings Friday that attending a graduation ceremony is voluntary and not a constitutionally protected right for any student.

“The loss of the opportunity to participate in a graduation ceremony is not an unconstitutional infringement on a student’s right to freely exercise his religious beliefs,” Clark said.

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The opposing attorneys met for a settlement conference on Friday but disagreed. Following the conference, U.S. District Judge Taylor McNeel convened a hearing, but it was unclear how quickly he would rule.

Harrison Central principal Kelly Fuller informed L.B. and her parents on May 9 that L.B. must follow the boys’ dress code.

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Fuller stated that the request to meet with L.B. was spurred by Harrison County School District Superintendent Mitchell King, who contacted to inquire about what transgender kids were wearing to graduation.

In a phone call, King told the teenager’s mother that L.B. “needs to wear pants, socks, and shoes like a boy,” King frequently misgendered L.B., according to the ACLU.

In the statement, L.B. said that the gown she chose for graduation is suitable and that the superintendent’s complaints are unjust to her, her family, and other transgender students.

“I have the right to celebrate my graduation as the person I am, not who anyone else wants me to be,” she stated.

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