Missouri Supreme Court rules transgender student may sue political subdivisions for discrimination

Updated: Mar 27, 2019

In an opinion last month, R.A.M. v. Blue Springs R-IV School District, the Missouri Supreme Court reversed the dismissal of a transgender student’s case claiming discrimination under the Missouri Human Rights Act. The student was denied access to the boy’s locker rooms and restrooms at school and filed a charge with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights. The student later filed suit against the school district, arguing the school district discriminated against him by refusing him access to the boys’ facilities. The Missouri Human Rights Act prohibits denying someone, on the basis of sex (among other bases), the full and equal use and enjoyment of “public accommodations.” Public accommodations include any public facilities owned by or on behalf of the state, state agencies, or subdivisions of the state (such as school districts). The trial court dismissed the lawsuit, and the student appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court. On appeal, the school district argued that the Missouri Human Rights Act does not allow for claims of discrimination based on gender identity or transgender status. While two judges agreed with that position, the majority of judges rejected that argument and held that the student’s lawsuit did state a claim for discrimination on the basis of sex under the Act. The Supreme Court reversed the prior dismissal and sent the case back to the trial court for further proceedings.