(FOUNTAIN, Colo.) — Coy Mathis, born a male triplet, has behaved like a girl since she was 18 months old. Since being enrolled at Eagle Elementary School in Fountain, Colo., the 6-year-old has presented as female and worn girls’ clothing. Her classmates and teachers have used female pronouns to refer to her, and she has used the girls’ bathrooms.
Everything was fine until December of 2012 when school officials told her parents she can no longer use the female facilities and ordered her to use the boys’ or nurse’s bathroom.
“We want Coy to have the same educational opportunities as every other Colorado student,” said Kathryn Mathis, Coy’s mother. “Her school should not be singling her out for mistreatment just because she is transgender.”
Now Jeremy and Kathryn Mathis, with the help of the Transgender Legal and Defense Education Fund (TLDEF), have filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Division on behalf of Coy, alleging that the school has violated her rights.
“We are hopeful we can resolve this quickly for Coy’s sake,” said TLDEF’s executive director, Michael Silverman.
The Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act prohibits discrimination against transgender students in public schools.
A letter from the school’s lawyers explained the rationale behind the decision, saying, “The district’s decision took into account not only Coy but other students in the building, their parents, and the future impact a boy with male genitals using a girls’ bathroom would have as Coy grew older.”
While other students and teachers do not notice that Coy has male genitals, the school said it feared as the child developed parents and students would become “uncomfortable.”
Transgender youth typically face several challenges and discrimination, and are at a disproportionate risk for depression, suicide, substance abuse, HIV and sexually transmitted diseases, according to the Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State University.
Coy’s parents worry that the school’s policy is setting their child up for stigma and bullying.
“We have five children and we love them all very much,” said Kathryn Mathis. “We want Coy to return to school to be with her teachers, her friends, and her siblings, but we are afraid to send her back until we know that the school is going to treat her fairly. She is still just 6 years old, and we do not want one of our daughter’s earliest experiences to be our community telling her she’s not good enough.”
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