FILE - In this June 27, 2020, file photo, Saltillo High School seniors make their way to the football field as the sun begins to set for their graduation ceremony in Saltillo, Miss. The number of high school seniors applying for U.S. federal college aid plunged in the weeks following the sudden closure of school buildings this spring — a time when students were cut off from school counselors, and families hit with financial setbacks were reconsidering plans for higher education. (Thomas Wells/The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal via AP, File)

The ACLU has sued the Harrison County School District over its refusal to allow a transgender student to wear a dress to her graduation ceremony. 

The student, referred to as L.B. in the ACLU press release, has been openly transgender for her entire high school career and her gender is known by classmates and teachers at Harrison Central High School, according to court documents. The complaint also says that throughout her high school career, she has “frequently and consistently worn dresses, skirts, and traditionally feminine clothing items and accessories to school and school-sponsored events and activities, without issue or repercussion.” 

Last week, Harrison Central High School Principal Kelly Fuller called L.B. to the office to inquire what she was planning to wear to graduation, according to the complaint. Upon being told that L.B. planned to wear a dress, Fuller replied that she could not do this and would need to wear what the boys were wearing, adding that this conversation was prompted by Harrison County Superintendent Mitchell King calling the school and asking what transgender students would wear to graduation.

“My graduation is supposed to be a moment of pride and celebration and school officials want to turn it into a moment of humiliation and shame,” said L.B. in an ACLU press release. “The clothing I’ve chosen is fully appropriate for the ceremony and the superintendent’s objections to it are entirely unfair to myself, my family, and all transgender students like me. I have the right to celebrate my graduation as who I am, not who anyone else wants me to be.” 

In a conversation between King and L.B.’s mother Samantha Brown, it was communicated that if L.B. wore a dress to the ceremony, she would not be allowed to participate. 

The lawsuit alleges gender discrimination as a violation of constitutional rights and federal law, specifically Title IX, the First Amendment’s freedom of expression clause, and the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause. The temporary restraining order asks the court to prohibit the district from taking action for alleged noncompliance with its graduation dress code policies. 

The Harrison County School District did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication.

According to the press release, the district has not taken any action to check the planned outfits of any other students. 

The Harrison Central High School graduation is scheduled for Saturday, May 20, at 6:30 p.m. 

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Julia, a Louisiana native, covers K-12 education. She previously served as an investigative intern with Mississippi Today helping cover the welfare scandal. She is a 2021 graduate of the University of Mississippi, where she studied journalism and public policy and was a member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College. She has also been published in The New York Times and the Clarion-Ledger.