Jane Johnson, interim executive director of the ACLU of Louisiana

Earlier this week, transgender student Kami Pham and her classmates used the power of grassroots activism to prevent an egregious violation of her rights. 

Claiming Pham’s school photos violated the school’s dress code because the photos were too “feminine,” the high school principal had initially refused to allow the pictures to be published in the school’s yearbook and threatened to stop her from participating in the school’s graduation ceremony.
 
Pham and her allies fought back, circulating petitions, taking to social media, and generating national coverage in the press. In less than 24 hours, Caddo Parish school officials had reversed the principal’s decision and affirmed her right to appear in her high school yearbook and walk at graduation.  
 
This victory is a testament to Kami and her classmates, and another example of how young people are exposing injustice and leading positive change across the country.
 
As an organization dedicated to protecting the constitutional rights of all students, we’re glad Caddo Parish school officials came to their senses and we urge all Louisiana school administrators to respect the rights of transgender and gender nonconforming students. 
 
Under both Title IX and the Equal Protection Clause, school officials cannot force students to conform to sex stereotypes. For example, while schools may impose a gender-neutral requirement of proper attire for school events, they cannot rely on sex stereotypes that require girls to wear dresses or boys to wear tuxedos or suits. 
 
In addition, courts have repeatedly ruled that the First Amendment protects students’ right to express their gender nonconformity or gender identity through their dress and appearance.  
 
The bottom line: students have a right to express their gender identity without being punished or discriminated against. 
 
The ACLU of Louisiana will continue to stand in solidarity with Kami Pham and defend the right of all transgender people to be themselves. 
 
 
 

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