Gender-Neutral Student Speaks Out About Controversy

Fairview Middle School
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By: Abby Walton
October 16, 2015

TALLAHASSEE, FL – 14-year-old Alex Grubbs is gender-neutral; a person who doesn't identify as specifically male or female. For the purposes of this story, Alex has asked we use "they" or "their" when describing them. Alex says they want to use what happened this week as a teaching moment, and want people to know gender neutrality and transgender issues are here in Tallahassee and it's time for more tolerance.

Alex Grubbs says last year was the first time they wore a dress.

"I felt so happy for the first time and ever since then, I've just decided I don't really fit in with being a boy or a girl," Alex says.

It's revelation Alex's mother. Trisha Shannon says she saw in her son from about the age of three.

"You just know, and you know that when they say it with such truth and pain sometimes behind it. So I kind of always knew," says Trisha.

Tuesday was Alex's 14th birthday.

Alex says they've worn makeup and what's considered "girl's clothing" before. But on this day, they decided to wear a dress.

"I was just thinking what greater time would it be than on my birthday when it's just a day I can be happy," Alex says.

Since it had never been an issue before, Alex didn't think much of it, until a Fairview Middle School official told Alex to change clothes, or leave school.

Since that time LCS Superintendent Jackie Pons has met with the family.

"He met with me and apologized and said this isn't... I'll do an investigation... this isn't how things are supposed to be handled," Alex says.

Alex has since withdrawn from Fairview Middle, and plans to enroll in another LCS school.

The two want the outcome of this incident to be more education for teachers, students and staff.

"I don't feel like most people understand the whole difference between biological sex and a gender, and I mean, your biological sex is what's down here," Alex says, pointing down. "Your gender is what's here," Alex says, pointing to their head.

In response to Alex's story and LCS's response, the ACLU of Florida said, in part, "We applaud Superintendent Pons's commitment and actions to ensure appropriate treatment of transgender and gender nonconforming students. We hope that other school districts take note and will ensure that their administrators, teachers, and staff enforce dress codes within the bounds of the law."


News Release: American Civil Liberties Union
October 16, 2015

TALLAHASSEE, FL – In response to an ACLU letter sent today regarding the unlawful enforcement of a dress code policy at Fairview Middle School, Superintendent of Leon County Schools, Jackie Pons, stated:

“Our District takes issues like these very seriously and I regret that an incident occurred. I have met with the mother of the student and have apologized to her and her child on behalf of our school district. I have reviewed Board Policy 5511 regarding Dress Codes and the Dress Code for Fairview Middle School and find no language that requires a student to dress a certain way based on gender. I can confirm to you that the Leon County School District’s policies do not contain or allow student clothing restrictions based on gender.”

ACLU of Florida staff attorney, Daniel Tilley responded to the letter saying:

“We applaud Superintendent Pons’s commitment and actions to ensure appropriate treatment of transgender and gender nonconforming students. We hope that other school districts take note and will ensure that their administrators, teachers, and staff enforce dress codes within the bounds of the law and provide for the safe and respectful treatment of all students.”


News Release: Leon County Schools
October 16, 2015

TALLAHASSEE -- This afternoon, Leon County Schools received a letter from the Florida American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in reference to the LCS Dress Code. Attached, please find the District’s comprehensive response. Superintendent Pons also spoke via phone with Mr. Daniel Tilly from the ACLU.

To read the full letter, see attached document titled, "LCS Letter."


News Release: American Civil Liberties Union
October 16, 2015

TALLAHASSEE, FL – On Tuesday, October 13, 2015, a student at Fairview Middle School whose birth-assigned sex is male but who identifies as agender, wore a dress to school. Upon the student’s arrival at school, Principal Scott Hansen allegedly told them that wearing a dress was in violation of the dress code because dresses are not for boys. The school then contacted the student’s mother to provide the student a change of clothes.

Responding to the incident in a letter to Leon County Schools Superintendent Jackie Pons, ACLU of Florida Staff Attorney Daniel Tilley stated:

“It is well established that under both Title IX and the Equal Protection Clause, school officials cannot force students to conform to sex stereotypes. . . . Schools may impose a gender-neutral requirement of proper, even formal, attire for school events (provided it does not create an undue financial burden for students). But schools cannot rely on sex stereotypes that require, for example, that boys wear tuxedos or suits and that girls wear dresses. . . . In addition, under the First Amendment, students have a right to express their gender nonconformity or gender identity through their dress and appearance.”

To read the full letter, see attached document titled, "ACLU Letter."


UPDATE 11:33 p.m.
By: James Buechele

Anita Acre went to Fairview middle school as a teenager and now her daughter attends the school. She's upset with the way the school dealt with the news that a boy was wearing a dress in class.

"This is a new age," said Acre "People are being more comfortable with whom they are and they should be allowed to be and so if that young man or any other young man or girl for that matter feels comfortable in their skin then they should be allowed to wear [something] as long as it meets the dress code."

Equality Florida released a statement saying:

"[We express] our sincere disappointment in the treatment of this Tallahassee student. There are national and state regulations and guidelines which specifically address this kind of marginalization, humiliation and discrimination of a gender non-conforming student."

Some parents say students should have a right to express themselves but it shouldn't come at the cost of their classmates.

"When it comes down to a distraction in the classroom I'm totally against that because other children have a right to learn," said Debora Clayton.

Superintendent Jackie Pons did meet with the family and says the issue is being reviewed with the district's equity office.


By: WCTV Eyewitness News
October 15, 2015

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- A Tallahassee middle-schooler is in the midst of controversy over their clothing. Equality Florida says the student identifies as gender-neutral.

The student went to Fairview Middle School yesterday wearing a dress. Equality Florida claims other children shamed the student for wearing the outfit.

School officials allegedly told the child to go home and change.

An LCS spokesman would not comment on any specifics citing student privacy laws, but released the following statement:

"Superintendent Pons met with the family this afternoon regarding this sensitive matter.

"It is being reviewed by the district’s equity office in its entirety. As appropriate, recommendations regarding possible policy revisions and additional training will occur.

"Leon County Schools is a safe and caring community that puts the well-being of children first. Bullying or the singling out of any student or employee who may express themselves differently will not be tolerated."



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