A family in Southern California is suing the private school their children attend for allegedly mistreating their 7-year-old child – who was born male but identifies and lives as female – by treating her as a boy.
Parents Priya Shah and Jaspret Brar claim that Heritage Oak Private Education school in Yorba Linda “unlawfully discriminated against Nikki,” their young child.
“Heritage Oak repudiated Nikki’s core identity,” their complaint states. “It refused to use the name, pronoun, and gender corresponding to Nikki’s gender identity, required Nikki to wear the boy’s uniform and use the boy’s restroom, and failed to address the bullying that Nikki was subjected to because of her gender identity and gender expression.”
The complaint further alleges the school of inflicting emotional damage on the child so severe that it drove her to exhibit dangerous behaviors.
“Seven-year-old Nikki became depressed and talked about self-harm; she isolated herself socially and would not play with other children at recess because she could not be herself with them; she would not participate in school-related events after hours when she had to wear boy’s clothes; and she felt that the school was blocking her ‘inner light.’”
The school responded to the lawsuit with a statement describing its commitment to serving all its students, the Orange County Register reported.
“Due to the sensitivity of the issue and age of the child, we believed we needed expert guidance regarding timing (such as preparing children for a change they would see in spring semester of second grade and fall semester of third grade), process and age-appropriate communication,” a spokeswoman said.
The lawsuit was filed under California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, which bans business discrimination, and will be argued by a pro bono team of lawyers from Public Counsel, as well as institutions like Harvard, University of California Irvine, and Western New England School of Law.