Lincoln, Neb – On Friday, May 13 the Departments of Education and Justice announced comprehensive guidance that requires schools to treat transgender students in accordance with their gender identity. On Monday, Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts encouraged Nebraska Schools to ignore the guidance.
Danielle Conrad, Executive Director of the ACLU of Nebraska, has this reaction:
“It is disappointing, but not surprising, that Governor Ricketts is encouraging school districts to disregard the rule of law and to actively discriminate against transgender Nebraska students. The good news is many of Nebraska's educational professionals know better than to play politics with the wellbeing of Nebraska students and continue to make strides to ensure equality and opportunity for all students in compliance with federal and state law.
“The Governor’s recent comments are not surprising given the Governor's track record of picking and choosing what federal laws he wants to follow. It is an unquestioned fact that he squandered tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars trying to illegally secure execution drugs in violation of federal law. Then he encouraged discrimination against certain refugees in violation of federal law.
“Now, with a state budget on shaky ground facing projected shortfalls, the Governor has made politically motivated comments about transgender students. Taken at face value, these comments hurt real Nebraska children, risk costly and lengthy civil rights litigation, and risk the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in federal education funding leaving Nebraska taxpayers on the hook to make up the difference with higher property taxes.
“Since the ACLU released guidance to all Nebraska school districts related to transgender students in October, a federal court has ruled in favor of ACLU’s client Gavin Grimm, a teenage transgender student in Virginia. Additionally, a Chicago-area school district has been explicitly warned by the federal government that they were risking their federal funding by denying bathroom access to transgender students. The ACLU of Nebraska has worked successfully with schools, students, and families across Nebraska to address these issues appropriately as they arise without litigation or fanfare.
“The Governor's political rhetoric negatively impacts real Nebraskans. We are talking about Nebraska students who are right now in classrooms across Nebraska. We call on the Governor to tone down the hurtful rhetoric and foster a culture of understanding that respects the diversity of all our students. It would be far more helpful for Governor Ricketts to take a chapter from the playbook of South Dakota's Governor who recently met with transgender students, listened to their concerns, than vetoed a bill to discriminate against transgender students earlier this year. It would be far more helpful if the Governor kept his campaign promises to run government more like a business. For example, his family's company, TD Ameritrade, has been recognized for valuing diversity and providing transgender inclusive health benefits for employees. We look forward to the day when our Governor invites hard working transgender Nebraskans to meet with him and learn more about how we can all work together to make Nebraska a state that ensures opportunity for all. The ACLU of Nebraska stands ready to assist any transgender students who face discrimination and encourages them to contact our office.”