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La Feria Independent School District Board of Trustees P.O. Box 1159 203 East Oleander Avenue La Feria, Texas 78559 November 5, 2013 Dear Members of the La Feria School Board, Introduction The Southern Poverty Law Center is a nonproﬁt civil rights organization dedicated to ﬁghting hate and bigotry, and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of society. The Human Rights Campaign is the largest civil rights organization in the United States working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans. We write to express our support of Jeydon Loredo, a senior at La Feria High School who intends to appear at the November 11, 2013 School Board meeting to appeal a decision made by Superintendent Villarreal. Jeydon is an outstanding young person. He is a model student and an active participant in his high school community. He is devoted to his close-knit family. Jeydon is also transgender.1 When Jeydon was born, he was assigned a female gender and correspondingly raised as a girl throughout much of his time at the La Feria School District. With the full support of his family, friends, and physician, and a full nine years after he entered the district as a fourth grader, Jeydon now identiﬁes as a man. Jeydon recently wore a tuxedo for his senior portrait. He expected that his picture would be included in the school yearbook, along with the pictures of all his fellow students and friends. Superintendent Villarreal, however, has determined that Jeydon’s picture may not be included in the yearbook because the picture purportedly would offend “community standards.” This decision is misguided and wrong. “Community standards,” such as standards of inclusion, respect, and nondiscrimination, actually counsel in favor of including Jeydon’s portrait, not excluding it. Jeydon’s gender identity is male and he should be allowed to wear a tuxedo in accordance with that gender identity. Courts have held that it may be a violation of civil rights laws to refuse to allow even a female student to wear a tuxedo in a yearbook photo. We write to support Jeydon’s appeal, and to provide background that may enable a full understanding of the situation. Jeydon’s Commitment to School and Family Jeydon moved to this community nine years ago with his mother, Stella Loredo, and his three older brothers. Jeydon has been a model student since his arrival. Throughout Ms. Loredo’s years attending
1 “Transgender is an umbrella term for persons whose gender identity, gender expression, or behavior does not conform to that typically associated with the sex to which they were assigned at birth. Gender identity refers to a person’s internal sense of being male, female, or something else.” american psychological association, Answers to Your Questions About Transgender People, Gender Identity, and Gender Expression, 2011. Available at: http://www.apa.org/topics/sexuality/transgender.aspx.
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school open houses, she has heard nothing but praise for her child, coupled with requests from his teachers that he raise his hand more often. Jeydon has never been called to the principal’s ofﬁce or had any other type of disciplinary issue. Jeydon channels his energy into the activities he loves most—particularly art and mechanics. He speaks excitedly about learning to take apart a computer and put it back together in Computer Maintenance, and about how cool it was to learn how to weld in Agricultural Mechanics. Following graduation he hopes to attend the Art Institute in Austin in order to pursue his dream of making music, a dream begun in part through his experience in band here at Noemi Dominguez Elementary School. The Loredo family is very close-knit. Jeydon drives to school every morning with his 67-year-old grandmother, Lupe Loredo. He and Lupe spend a good bit of time together, as do most members of the family. Ms. Loredo makes dinner for her family every night and provides for them through her job as an Ofﬁce Manager with the Texas Department of Transportation. The Yearbook Picture Jeydon approached his inclusion in the yearbook like any other student—with excitement and enthusiasm. He told his mother beforehand and she arranged to pay in advance for proofs of the photographs. The day they were taken, he made sure his hair was tidy and picked out a special outﬁt for the casual photo. For the formal wear photo, Jeydon selected a tuxedo just like any other boy. As he sat for the yearbook photo, he asked the photographer to conﬁrm that the tuxedo photo would appear in the yearbook along with the photos of all of his friends. The photographer told Jeydon he didn’t know but that Jeydon could ask the yearbook teacher if he wanted. Then the photographer told Jeydon to smile and snapped a shot, quickly moving on to the next student. Like any other proud parent, Ms. Loredo was looking forward to seeing the proofs. She wanted to see the photos of her son as they would appear in the yearbook. When she received proofs of the yearbook photographs a few weeks ago, Ms. Loredo was confused. She received only the casual photo; the formal photo of her son wearing a tuxedo was nowhere to be found. She called the photography studio to ask if there was a mistake. The co-owner told Ms. Loredo that ofﬁcials from the La Feria School District instructed the studio’s owners not to release the tuxedo photo. Jeydon told Ms. Loredo that the yearbook teacher had told him the tudexo photo would not be in the yearbook. Ms. Loredo immediately contacted Superintendent Villarreal to determine the reason for this decision. Ms. Loredo met with Superintendent Villarreal on Friday, October 25th, 2013. Mr. Villarreal told Ms. Loredo at the meeting that he would not allow the yearbook to publish the photo because he did not consider her son to be a boy on account of the fact that his birth certiﬁcate indicated he was born female. Superintendent Villarreal said he would only allow a formal photo of Ms. Loredo’s son in the yearbook if her son wore a drape or a white blouse. Superintendent Villarreal told Ms. Loredo that the photo of Jeydon in a tuxedo was inappropriate under La Feria’s “community standards.” Mr. Villarreal told Ms. Loredo that if she had a problem with his decision, she could appeal it to the school board. The District Should Permit Jeydon’s Picture To Be Included in the Yearbook Superintendent’ Villarreal’s reliance on what he believes to be “community standards” does not justify excluding Jeydon’s picture from the yearbook. Jeydon and his mother know this community. It is a place of tolerance. It is where Jeydon has grown and ﬂourished. Jeydon and his mom know that this community will accept him for who he is. Jeydon, as mentioned above, is transgender. This means that although Ms. Loredo raised Jeydon as a girl, he has a male gender identity. Every major medical and mental health organization in the country recognizes that gender identity is distinct from biology—that is, the fact that Jeydon was raised a girl does not make his male
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gender identity any less real. Following continued visits with a licensed therapist, that therapist diagnosed Jeydon as transgender. Now, Jeydon’s entire family, including his three older brothers, his mother, and his grandmother, all accept him with open arms as their brother, son, and grandson. Yet against all this, Mr. Villarreal told Ms. Loredo that because Jeydon has a marker of “F” on his birth certiﬁcate, Jeydon is a girl and must wear a drape or a white blouse in order to have his photo in the yearbook. Simply put, considering all the legal and medical authority on the subject, Mr. Villarreal is mistaken. Discrimination Against Jeydon on Account of his Gender Identity Is Wrong and Illegal All major medical and mental health organizations in the country recognize that discrimination against people who are transgender is wrong. The American Medical Association, for example, “opposes discrimination on the basis of gender identity” and has issued numerous position papers in support of transgender people.2 Leading educators agree. For example, the Magazine of the National Association of Secondary School Principals instructs, “[d]o not be afraid to learn more about groups about which you know little. Do not be afraid of the controversy that may be stirred up when you stand ﬁrm in your position that all students, including those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, be included in the vital life of leadership in the school.”3 Courts also recognize that it is illegal to discriminate against students on account of their gender identity. Indeed, one federal court has concluded that it is a violation of civil rights laws to refuse to allow even a female student to wear a tuxedo in a yearbook photo.4 To refuse to allow Jeydon’s tuxedo portrait to be in the yearbook or to require him to wear a drape or a white blouse instead of a tuxedo constitutes impermissible discrimination under the law. Conclusion Ms. Loredo has done precisely what experts in the ﬁeld advise parents of transgender teens to do: support their children and advocate on their behalf. The American Psychological Association (“APA”) explains that “[p]arents of gender-nonconforming children may need to work with schools and other institutions to address their children’s particular needs. . .”5 We believe that the District should act in the same manner and offer its support and understanding to Jeydon rather than its judgment. We would be happy to help facilitate professional development courses for staff and faculty so that they may learn more about how to best support their students. Jeydon seeks only the opportunity given to all other students at La Feria High School: the opportunity to be featured in the yearbook and recognized as a valued member of the community. Denying him this opportunity contravenes true community standards—respect and nondiscrimination—standards Jeydon has upheld throughout his impeccable record in the La Feria School District. Sincerely,
Alesdair Ittelson Skadden Fellow/Staff Attorney Southern Poverty Law Center
Jeff Krehely Chief Foundation Ofﬁcer Human Rights Campaign
2 american medical association, Nondiscrimination Policy, H-65.983. Available at: http://www.ama-assn.org/resources/doc/ PolicyFinder/policyﬁles/HnE/H-65.983.HTM. See also Continued Support of Human Rights and Freedom, H-65.992; Sexual Orientation and/or Gender Identity as Health Insurance Criteria, H-180.980. 3 Kate Franfurt, A Place For Everyone, principal leadership, October 2000, at 25. Available at: http://www.nassp.org/portals/0/ content/48526.pdf. 4 Sturgis v. Copiah Cnty. Sch. Dist., 2011 WL 4351355 (S.D. Miss. Sept. 15, 2011). 5 american psychological association, supra note 1.
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