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Missouri Supreme Court rules in favor of transgender student’s bathroom case

Posted at 1:12 PM, Feb 28, 2019

LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. -- LGBTQ advocates are celebrating a Missouri Supreme Court decision, calling it a victory for transgender rights.

Ten months after it first went before the court, judges ruled Tuesday that lawsuits that claim discrimination based on sex and sex stereotypes are legally viable. There was one dissenting opinion.

RJ Appleberry's family filed a lawsuit against the Blue Springs School District in 2014, claiming it discriminated based on sex. RJ is transgender; he transitioned from female to male when he was nine years old.

The lawsuit claims the board and district's refusal to let Appleberry use the boy's bathroom and locker room as a student was sex discrimination.

The lawsuit was dismissed by a Jackson County circuit judge. It then went to a Court of Appeals and finally to the Missouri Supreme Court. The Missouri Supreme Court ruled in favor of Appleberry and overturned the previous judge's decision.

The decision doesn't mean the Blue Springs School District has to change its current policy, but now the original lawsuit can start again. Representatives for the district did not initially respond to a request for comment.

Attorneys for Appleberry said this is the first case to go before the Missouri Supreme Court that clarifies the language in the Missouri Human Rights Act.

"As it covers sex discrimination, that does include the possibility for the person to prove that they were discriminated against based on their sex because of gender stereotyping and gender stereotypes," attorney Madeline Johnson said, "which is what we alleged in the case RMA vs Blue Springs R-4 School District."

Appleberry graduated from Blue Springs South last spring and is currently attending community college.

"I'm very happy with how things turned out because I think it's going to be very important for schools down the road," he said. "I think it's going to impact a lot of trans kids who just want to get their education."

Appleberry said he thinks this was a step in the right direction at a time when he's pretty happy with how life is going.

"It's really first the progression of the LGBT community and their inclusion in public facilities," he added. "Hopefully this will fall out into other public facilities, and society will just adopt this policy of inclusiveness."