SDACLU Demands Public Records Proving Charter School Did Not Discriminate Against Transgender Student

SAN DIEGO, CA – The ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties (“ACLU-SDIC”) filed suit in California Superior Court yesterday against e3 Civic High School (“e3”), a charter school located in the downtown San Diego Central Library building. ACLU-SDIC and co-counsel, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP (“Pillsbury”), seek to compel disclosure of documents related to e3’s claim it did not discriminate against a fifteen-year-old transgender student because of her gender identity.

The suit stems from an October 2015 meeting between Mayra Velazquez and her daughter, a transgender student seeking admission to e3 Civic High School, and Dr. Helen Griffith, the school’s executive director.  At that time, e3 was at least 70 students under its enrollment capacity.  Dr. Griffith declined to admit Ms. Velazquez’s daughter, claiming there was no space at the school and allegedly placing her on a waiting list.  Dr. Sheila Krotz, then-e3’s director of instruction, informed Ms. Velazquez she was prepared to admit her daughter, but that Dr. Griffith refused to do so because she is transgender.  Shortly thereafter, e3 admitted a student who was not transgender. The California Education Code prohibits discrimination against students in public and charter schools based on gender, gender identity, or gender expression. 

In April 2016, Pillsbury sent a letter to e3 Civic High School stating that e3 is engaged in unlawful discrimination. Through counsel, the charter school responded in a May 2016 letter, alleging it did not discriminate and asserting it had legitimate reasons for its actions.  On August 22, 2016, Pillsbury responded with a request for disclosure of documents relating to the school’s assertion, which e3 ignored.  On October 12, 2016, Pillsbury sent a letter to e3’s lawyer demanding the school produce the requested documents or face litigation to compel disclosure.  To date, e3 has failed to respond.

“e3’s charter explicitly states that it is subject to the California Public Records Act,” said Richard Segal, managing partner of Pillsbury’s San Diego offices.  “e3 has a statutory duty to comply with its own charter.  It’s both surprising and curious that school leaders  would withhold documents their lawyer referenced as alleged proof that e3 did not unlawfully discriminate, and ones they are obligated to produce in any event.”  

“Charter schools are public schools and must be held to the same standards of transparency and accountability,” said David Loy, Legal Director for the San Diego ACLU.  “The ACLU stands strong for public disclosure and the fundamental rights of LGBT people.”

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