Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Transgender student sues private school

Portrait of the Shah-Brar family. Nikki is second from left.

AN 8-YEAR OLD Asian/American girl is suing her school because the school wouldn't allow her to be herself.

The family of Nikki Shah-Brar, is suing Heritage Oak Private Education, a private school in Yorba Linda, Calif. because her family doesn't think the school did enough to accommodate transgender child.

“We would not have done it if she didn’t support it,” said her mother Priya Shah. “This was a family decision. We thought we had to stand up for our child who was standing up for who she was. This is not something we do lightly.”

What makes the suit unusual is that it accuses the school violating the Unruh Civil Rights Act, California’s law banning discrimination in public accommodations. Though California courts have found that the law does not apply to private religiously affiliated schools, Heritage Oak is a private for-profit school. 
According to Public Counsel attorney Kathryn Eidmann, Heritage Oak is a for-profit, non-religious school. "That means that it's a business institution and is treated like any other business institution in California and California does not tolerate discrimination on the basis of race, religion or gender identity by any business institution."
In their complaint, the family argues, “The Unruh Act applies to a for-profit school such as Heritage Oak and its parent company Nobel Learning Communities because Heritage Oak and Nobel Learning Communities are business establishments within the meaning of the statute.” 
Her parents, Shah and Jaspret Brar, encouraged Nikki to let their daughter express her gender identity and come out as a transgender girl at school.
School administrators said that Nikki could grow her hair out, Brar told BuzzFeed News, recounting the school's rules for his daughter in third grade. “But they said no girls bathroom, no female pronouns, no girls name, and no girls uniform.”
By imposing those conditions, the suit alleges, Heritage Oak Private Education and its parent company, Nobel Learning Communities, illegally discriminated against the girl on the basis of gender identity in a business, engaged in fraudulent business practices, and intentionally inflicted emotional harm.

When the Shah-Brar family told the school in the middle of the 2016 school year about Nikki's desire to transition, it first appeared the school would accommodate the child.

When Jan. 2017 rolled around, Phyllis Cygan, the executive director of Heritage Oak, allegedly told Nikki's parents that “Nikki would have to wear the boy’s uniform, use a boy’s name and pronouns, and use the staff restroom,” the complaint says. “She said that Heritage Oak is a ‘conservative institution’ that focuses on ‘character education’ and that allowing Nikki to transition would ‘create an imbalance in our environment.’”

“This is not a trend, it’s not a fad, it’s not a phase,” Shah added. “This is who she is at her very core, and if you can’t learn and grow at school, then you can’t be who you are. We stand with Nikki and we want to do our small part to make sure other transgender kids don’t have the same trauma.”

Nikki, now in the third grade, is now attending a different school.