Trans student wins $218,500 from Minnesota school district in bathroom lawsuit

Minnesota schools have paid out over half a million dollars to transgender students suing over bathroom polices so far this year.

Matt Woods/Gender Justice

Buffalo-Hanover-Montrose Schools recently agreed to pay out $218,500 to a transgender student who was upset by the bathroom policy at Buffalo Community Middle School.

The student, who goes by Matt Woods, was born a female but now claims to be male. Woods’ mother sued the school district in coordination with Gender Justice and Best & Flanagan LLP after the student was “repeatedly isolated … from his classmates” by a policy that required Woods to use a gender-neutral restroom as opposed to the boys’ facility, Gender Justice reports.

Gender Justice and their legal partners argued that the school’s decision to prohibit a biological female from using the boys’ restroom violated Woods’ human and constitutional rights. The matter was never deliberated before a judge, as the school district settled out of court.

The settlement not only includes a hefty payout, but it also includes a requirement that transgender people be allowed to use whatever restrooms and play on whatever sports teams they choose moving forward. The school district also agreed that teachers and administrators must use whatever name and pronouns a student chooses.

“I’m glad there will be new gender affirming policies put into place so that no one else has to go through what I went through … people should be able to express their gender identity and go to the bathroom without being tormented by their teachers and school,” Woods said after the settlement was agreed upon.

Helene Woods is the mother of the transgender student. She first filed a complaint on behalf of her child in 2019. This document alleges that her child adopted a transgender male identity in 2015 but was “treated differently from other boys,” which was “a significant source of ongoing stress.”

The complaint specifies that the child was distressed by not being allowed to dress for gym class with the biological boys. Instead, Woods was required to use a gender-neutral changing facility adjacent to the nurse’s office. The complaint argues that this distress at not being allowed to use male bathrooms was related to a 2015 incident where Woods was hospitalized for about three months for “in-patient mental health treatment.” This was just one hospitalization in a string of mental health interventions cited in the document.

The American Medical Association claims that the high rates of depression and suicide in the transgender community are linked to bathroom policies. Meanwhile, opponents of mixed-sex bathrooms and changing facilities suggest that high instances of mental health issues are endemic to the transgender population and are likely to exist regardless of what restroom policies schools adopt.

The Woods settlement comes just a few months after the Anoka-Hennepin School District, Minnesota’s largest, paid out $300,000 in a very similar case.