ACLU says Iowa transgender student insulted, rights violated

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A civil liberties group is taking up the case of a central Iowa transgender high school student who was ordered to wash “love trumps hate” written on his arm or be sent home.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa says the incident happened in November at Newton High School. The ACLU says a teacher also repeatedly referred to the student as “girl,” even though he openly identifies as male. According to a release from the ACLU, the sophomore student was taken to the assistant principal’s office, where was told he had to wash off the wording or leave school. The student washed it off to avoid further trouble. The ACLU said it is not revealing the identity of the student in order to protect his privacy.

Later, students who wanted to protest in the transgender student’s favor were told by teachers that they wouldn’t get their varsity letters if they participated.

In a letter sent Friday to the school, the ACLU warned that the school had violated the student’s free speech rights. The letter also noted that dozens of students who planned a walkout the next day to support the transgender student were threatened that they would not get varsity letters if they participated.

The ACLU demanded a letter of apology to the transgender student, as well as training for teachers regarding students’ free speech rights.

In a statement sent to local media Friday, the superintendent of the Newton Community School District, Bob Callaghan, acknowledged the incident is under review.

“The Newton Community School District is in receipt of a letter dated February 24, 2017 from the ACLU alleging violations of rights of one of the students in the District,” he wrote. “The District takes all such allegations seriously, and is conducting an investigation. The District will take other responsive action as appropriate. The District is committed to providing its students with a safe and positive learning environment.”