School district bans transgender first-grader from using girls’ bathroom

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Six-year-old Coy Mathis was born male, and thus presumably has all the appendages males tend to have. The difference is that Mathis wears girls’ clothes all the time. Also, teachers and administrators at Mathis’ elementary school use female pronouns when addressing the child.

Over the course of the past year, the first-grader had also used the girls’ bathroom at Eagleside Elementary School in Fountain, Colorado near Colorado Springs, reports ABC affiliate KMGH.

In December, however, the school banned Mathis from using the girls’ bathroom. Since winter break, the new policy has been for Mathis to use either the boys’ bathroom, a teacher’s lounge bathroom or the nurse’s bathroom.

In response, reports NBC affiliate KOAA, the Mathis family filed a civil rights complaint against the Fountain-Fort Carson School District with the Colorado Civil Rights Division. There was a press conference Wednesday afternoon.

“By forcing Coy to use a different bathroom than all the other girls, Coy’s school is targeting her for stigma, bullying and harassment,” attorney Michael Silverman said, according to KMGH.

In addition to representing Mathis, Silverman also serves as the executive director of the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, an organization based in New York City.

“She’s already beginning to experience the kind of discrimination that we’re working to stop,” Silverman added, according to KOAA. “We want her to be treated like every other girl at school.”

Kathryn Mathis, the child’s mother, said the new policy creates an unnecessary stigma.

“You see a little girl walk into the boys’ bathroom, that’s setting her up in an unsafe situation,” she said, according to KMGH. “You see her having to walk quite a ways from her classroom to the adult staff bathrooms or the nurse’s restroom, and you’re singling her out when you do that.”

Reporting about this story has been heroically one-sided in favor of the Mathis family. Part of that bias is certainly due to the fact that the Mathis family has been on a P.R.-blitz, while the Fountain-Fort Carson School District hasn’t had much to say in the media beyond a terse general statement. 

“The parents of Coy Mathis have filed a charge of discrimination with the Colorado division of Civil Rights,” part of the statement said. “They have chosen to publicize this matter by appearing on a nationally televised show with their child, sharing their point of view with national and local media, and holding a public press conference to announce the filing of the charge. The District firmly believes it has acted reasonably and fairly with respect to this issue.”

(The nationally televised show was “Katie,” a syndicated talk show hosted by journalist Katie Couric.)

School officials are concerned about what will happen to the child later on — in middle school and high school — when gender and sexuality will be more important to all the other students, KOAA says.

At the press conference, Kathryn Mathis told reporters that Coy began to identify as a girl “as soon as she could express herself.” She described Coy as restless and generally miserable before the parents decided to permit the transgender child to dress like a girl and act like a girl.

“We couldn’t get her to leave the house, go the playground, play with friends,” Mathis said, according to KMGH. “She would break down crying. She was so deeply unhappy and a three-year-old or four-year-old shouldn’t be that unhappy and that was when we sought professional help.”

Coy Mathis is a triplet (along with a brother, Max, and a sister, Lilly). There are two other siblings as well, one older and one younger.

Since the school district changed its policy, the family has taken Mathis out of school.

The Coy Mathis saga is the first-ever legal challenge under Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act of a transgender person’s ability to use the bathroom assigned to a particular gender.

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Eric Owens