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An Indian American family is taking a school in California to court with charges that it discriminated against their daughter by forcing her to dress as a boy. The eight-year-old transgender child attends Heritage Oak Private Education in Yorba Linda. The parents allege that the child, who was identified as male at birth, felt like a girl, but the school did not allow her to transition her gender at the school, saying the move would “create an imbalance in our environment”.
“This is a fight for basic equal dignity, for our families and for all families – for a society that values things that unite us and the things that make us different,” Priya Shah, mother of Nicole ‘Nikki’ Brar, said in a press statement, Indiawest reported.
“I am forever in awe of the courage that it took for Nikki to stand up for who she is, despite all the messages she was getting from her school and from society. Her courage to fight for her authentic self has galvanized my own.”
Nikki’s father Jaspret Brar pointed out that the family could not “stand to watch Nikki’s hopes and dreams be crushed because a group of adults didn’t accept her for who she is,” according to a statement released by the Public Counsel law firm, which is representing the family.
‘Trapped in Boy’s Clothes’
The lawsuit, which was filed August 2 in Orange County, Calif., Superior Court, also names Nobel Learning Communities, the parent company that runs the school. It stated that Nikki had told her parents just before she turned seven that although she was identified as a male at birth, she felt like a girl. It added that Nikki – who was named Nikash at birth – had always preferred toys and clothes generally meant for girls. She liked to wear her mother’s shoes and nail paint, and used to create gowns out of her grandmother’s dupattas.
The lawsuit further stated that the family consulted a therapist who encouraged them to buy her girls’ clothes if she asked for them. Nikki even told her parents that “boys’ clothes felt like a prison,” it added.
The teachers and administrators at Heritage Oak School, however, allegedly refused to use the name Nikki, and continued with the name, Nikash. They continued to identify her as “he”, and asked her to wear the boys’ uniform and to use the male washroom.
The parent company of the school released a press statement reiterating their support to the student and the family, the publication reported. “We believed it was extremely important to respond, not hastily, but with deliberate care, to decide when and how to inform and educate our entire elementary school community of students, staff and parents about the mid-year change of gender identity expression of a young child,” said the company, adding that it had consulted outside expert, and had allowed Nikki to use the single-unit staff bathroom. It also said that the company had offered specific options to the girls’ uniform, which the family rejected.
The parents later withdrew their child from Heritage Oak, and Nikki now attends a public school in the Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District.
“This case is about the denial of basic respect and dignity,” said Mark Rosenbaum, an attorney with Public Counsel, in a press statement. “When adults at a school think that they can dictate the name that a child goes by and demand she wear a boy’s uniform when she knows she’s a girl, that’s wrong.”