A settlement has been reached in a discrimination complaint brought by the parents of a transgender child against a St. Paul charter school. Gender Justice, the legal organization representing Dave and Hannah Edwards, and their daughter, announced on Monday that the settlement had been reached through confidential mediation.
According to the settlement, Nova Classical Academy will pay damages of $120,000 to the Edwards’. The school will also “revise its policies and practices to support its transgender and gender nonconforming students.”
The Edwards’ daughter enrolled in Nova in the fall of 2015. After encountering some hostile comments for being gender nonconforming, staff prepared gender-inclusive training but were blocked by school leadership, according to a civil rights complaint filed in April with the City of St. Paul.
In late 2015 and early 2016, a slew of local and national religious right groups began putting pressure on Nova to reject steps to make the school more inclusive of transgender and gender nonconforming students.
That coordinated campaign was launched by conservative Christian parents — with the aid of the Minnesota Child Protection League, the Minnesota Family Council, and Paul Ridgeway, the host of religious radio station AM 980 KKMS — . sought to prevent the school from enacting any inclusive policies. The Minnesota Family Council held an anti-transgender seminar in the school gymnasium (which hundreds of transgender community members and allies silently protested). The conservative groups even enlisted the help of the American College of Pediatricians, a national religious right group that has been described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group.
The Edwards were forced to withdraw their child from the school on Feb. 29, 2016.
The City of Saint Paul Department of Human Rights investigated following a complaint by the Edwards’ and found that the Edwards’ had probable cause to sue the school under St. Paul’s civil rights ordinances.
On Monday, Gender Justice and the Edwards announced that the settlement was reached and a lawsuit avoided.
“The discrimination we experienced will likely have a lasting impact on our family,” Dave Edwards said in a statement. “However, the phenomenal support we have received from the Twin Cities LGBTQIA community makes us feel optimistic about the future. We feel lucky to live in Minnesota, where gender identity and gender expression are protected by state and local laws.”
Hannah Edwards added, “We’re grateful for the professionalism, legal expertise, and kindness of everyone at Gender Justice. There is no doubt that transgender students are safer in Minnesota schools because of their passion, commitment, and tireless advocacy.”