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PA Transgender Student Battles District on Prom, Graduation Policies

A transgender student in Pennsylvania’s Red Lion Area School District is at odds with district officials over how he was identified at his recent prom and the district’s refusal to use his male name at graduation.
A transgender student in Pennsylvania’s Red Lion Area School District is at odds with district officials over how he was identified at his recent prom and the district’s refusal to use his male name at graduation.
May 14, 2013

HARRISBURG, Pa. - A transgender high school senior in Pennsylvania is at odds with district officials over their
policies about his gender identity. Issak Wolfe was born in a female body, but came out as transgender and began living as a boy almost two years ago.

According to Molly Tack-Hooper, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, Issak was mortified when his name was moved to the Prom Queen from the Prom King side of the ballot last month at Red Lion Area High School. He has also fought to wear the black gowns designated for male students at graduation next month.

"The school ultimately did agree to that," the lawyer said. "They would not, however, agree to announce his name when he walks across the stage to get his diploma as Issak Wolfe."

Tack-Hooper said the ACLU of Pennsylvania is appealing to the district with some steps it would like to see taken.

"A policy to ensure that, in the future, students running for prom court or anything else would not be forced onto a particular side of a gendered ballot in a way that does not gel with their gender identity," is among the actions suggested. "We also ask the school to apologize to Issak."

Where things go from here, said Tack-Hooper, rests largely with the district's response, but, she pointed out, ACLU has many tools at its disposal.

"Filing a lawsuit is one of them, but right now we're really focusing on public advocacy and hoping to bring some public pressure to bear on this particular situation," she said.

Wolfe, who just turned 18 a few weeks ago, plans to legally change his name, but that process, which involves a court hearing, cannot be completed in time for graduation next month. He plans to state his case further when he appears before the school board on Thursday.

Tom Joseph, Public News Service - PA