870 Market Street, Suite 400 San Francisco, CA 94102 415.865.0176 www.transgenderlawcenter.


July 25, 2013 ACT Test Administration and Accommodations 500 ACT Drive P.O. Box 168 Iowa City, IA 52243-0168 (319) 337-1000 Re: Unlawful discrimination against Madison ____

Dear Mr. ___: We are writing on behalf of our client, Madison ___, a junior at ___ High School in Venice, California. ACT has unlawfully infringed on Madison’s right to be free from discrimination in violation of Title IX, 20 U.S.C. § 1681, California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, California Civil Code § 51 et seq., and California Education Code § 220. We request that ACT take immediate action to remedy this unlawful discrimination. On June 8, 2013 Madison went to Alexander Hamilton High School in Culver City, California to take the ACT exam. Madison is gender non-conforming, and was dressed in comfortable, baggy, masculine clothing. She presented the same school ID she used to take the SAT at Hamilton High on June 1, 2013 and the ACT at Hamilton High in 2012. While on previous occasions test center supervisors accepted her ID, on June 8, 2013 the supervisor at Alexander Hamilton did not, stating that the ID photo did not match the photo on the admissions ticket Madison provided. She was pulled out of the entrance line, and the supervisor demanded that she produce a “government-issued” ID. Madison was not advised beforehand that she might need a second ID, and was unable to procure one before testing began, and thus she was not able to take the ACT on June 8. No other students at Hamilton High were prevented from testing on that date due to an alleged photo mismatch. ACT’s photo policy has six requirements: • • • • • • Your photo must be a clear image of you (not blurry, grainy, or fuzzy) against a plain, lightcolored background. The photo must be a head and shoulders shot of you—and only you. If your photo shows more than your head and shoulders, it will be rejected. You must use a portrait, not landscape, photo that is correctly oriented. You must be facing the camera. You cannot wear dark glasses. If you wear a head covering daily for religious reasons, adjust it to provide a full-face view. 1

The photo Madison submitted matched these requirements, yet she was singled out because her submitted photo and her ID photo were allegedly not a perfect match. This disparate treatment


appears to have occurred because Madison’s gender presentation (masculine) and gender marker on ID documents (female) were perceived as a conflict. While ACT has apparently accepted at face value the supervisor’s explanation that Madison’s ID looked “self-made” and that a non-current junior high school ID was presented as an alternative, this is simply not the case. Madison used the same ID to take the ACT in 2012, and to take the SAT on June 1, 2013, without incident. She did not present any other identification to the supervisor. ACT’s proposal that Madison take the ACT again in September is unsatisfactory. She will be taking advanced placement classes in the fall and the added academic and emotional pressure of taking the ACT will be overwhelming. We respectfully request that ACT instead allocate time for Madison to take the exam sometime in August before her school year begins, or she will initiate appropriate legal action. The ACT’s discriminatory treatment of Madison clearly appears to have been based on hostility towards her nonconforming gender expression, in violation of Title IX. Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex in all educational programs that receive federal financial aid. 20 U.S.C. § 1681. The U.S. Department of Education and the federal courts have made clear that academic institutions violate Title IX when they discriminate against students for a perceived failure to conform to gender stereotypes. See U.S. Dept. of Ed., “Dear Colleague” letter (Oct. 26, 2010), available at http://www2.ed. gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-201010.html. Additionally, ACT’s actions violate the California Unruh Civil Rights Act and California Education Code § 220, both of which prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or expression. The Unruh Act, California Civil Code § 51 et seq., prohibits the discriminatory denial of full and equal accommodations, advantages, privileges or services in all business establishments, public or private that do business in the state. California Education Code § 220 prohibits discrimination in any program or activity conducted by an educational institution that receives, or benefits from, state financial assistance. Please act promptly to schedule Madison to take the ACT exam in August and refrain from further unlawful discriminatory treatment or delays. If this matter is not resolved satisfactorily, and an alternative test date secured no later than August 1, Madison will proceed to file formal complaints with the federal and California Departments of Education and the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. Please contact me directly with your response. My telephone number is (415) 865-1076 ext. 304, and my email address is ilona@transgenderlawcenter.org. Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter. Sincerely, Ilona M. Turner Legal Director Transgender Law Center

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