Coy Mathis, transgender six-year-old, wins case over access to girls' bathroom

We've been following the story of Coy Mathis, a transgender six year old from Fountain who prompted a complaint over access to the girls' bathroom at her elementary school.

Now, the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund has announced that the Colorado Civil Rights Division ruled in Coy's favor.

Look below to get details and see the ruling, as well as our previous coverage.

As we've reported, Coy, a triplet who's one of five kids parented by Kathryn and Jeremy Mathis, became a cause of the aforementioned Transgender Legal & Education Defense Fund after being her family was informed over winter break that she could no longer use the girl's restroom at Eagleside Elementary, where she attended first grade. Rather, she would be required to visit either the staff or nurse's office facilities when nature called. The Mathis family, joined by the TLEDF, subsequently filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Division against the Fountain-Fort Carson School District #8, arguing that the new dictate "[singled] her out for mistreatment, and [taught] her classmates that it's okay to discriminate."

See also: "Coy Mathis's mom: No family should have to fight for respect for transgender children"

The story soon generated national publicity, with Coy and her loved ones appearing on CNN and Katie Couric's syndicated talk show, among other outlets. Additionally, a March article in the New York Times used the Mathis case as an example of what appears to be a national trend. The Times pointed out other recent instances of conflict and disagreement over transgender matters in an educational setting, such as a group of high school students in Batesville, Mississippi, who protested after a transgender classmate was allowed to don female clothing.

The latest? The fund is declaring "Victory!" thanks to a determination in Coy's favor. According to an organization release, "This is the first ruling in the nation holding that transgender students must be allowed to use bathrooms that match who they are, and the most comprehensive ruling ever supporting the rights of transgender people to access bathrooms without harassment or discrimination."

The Colorado Civil Rights Division document, dated June 17, portrays the dispute over bathroom usage as much less problematic than the size of the controversy might imply. Steven Chavez, the report's author, points out that only one complaint was made about Coy, with the parent in question complaining more about the actions of her parents than which bathroom she was using. Moreover, the school and district (referred to as "the Respondent") is taken to task on a number of other issues. Here's a key excerpt:
Though the Respondent articulated various grounds to legitimize its position, none were substantiated by sufficient evidence. Instead, the Respondent misinterprets statutes and regulations, provides superfluous, irrelevant information, appears to invalidate the Charging Party's transgender status by referring to the Charging Party as he or "her" (note the use of quotation marks), and demonstrates a lack of understanding of the complexity of transgender issues. The Respondent's safety concerns for the Charging Party, as well, are misstated, since the Charging Party demonstrated that she was not in any danger while using the girls' bathroom. The Charging Party, on the other hand, provides evidence to demonstrate that using the girls' restroom was not disruptive to the school environment and permitted her to gain full acceptance from her peers.
Here's what serves as the conclusion of the report:
In light of the totality of the evidence, the Respondent's grounds for the denial of service are not credible and are a pretext for denying the Charging Party equal treatment. The circumstances of this denial demonstrate a reasonable inference of discrimination based upon the sex and sexual orientation of the Charging Party. Therefore, a case of discriminatory denial of services has been established.
The Mathis family is expected to hold a press conference today to speak about the ruling. In the meantime, here's the document in its entirety.

Coy Mathis Ruling

Continue for our previous coverage of the Coy Mathis story, including photos and videos. Update, 11:11 a.m. March 18: In recent weeks, we've told you about Coy Mathis, a Fountain six year old who was born male but identifies as female. She's at the center of a dispute with the local district over access to the girl's restroom at her school; look below to see our previous coverage, complete with photos and video. The story has gotten national attention epitomized by a sprawling weekend report in the New York Times. Meanwhile, the school district has responded to the Mathis discrimination complaint by a deadline -- but refuses to share details.

As we've reported, Coy and her parents, Kathryn and Jeremy Mathis, who have five other kids (Coy is a triplet), are working with the Transgender Legal & Education Defense Fund, which filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Division against the Fountain-Fort Carson School District #8. Coy's parents say they were informed over winter break that she could no longer use the girl's restroom at her school, Eagleside Elementary; instead, she would be restricted to the staff or nurse's office facilities. They believe that by issuing this edict, the school and the district are "singling her out for mistreatment, and teaching her classmates that it's okay to discriminate."

This message has been spread via appearances on CNN and Katie Couric's syndicated talk show, among other outlets; the Katie segment can be seen here. But the New York Times article, "Dispute on Transgender Rights Unfolds at a Colorado School," puts the Mathis matter in a larger context. Here's an excerpt:
Nonetheless, conflicts over gender identity are, understandably, sensitive territory for administrators, transgender students and their families.

Last month in Batesville, Miss., a group of high school students protested after a transgender classmate was permitted to wear women's clothing. The students felt that their classmate was being given preferential treatment given the school district's gender-specific dress code, according to local news reports.

Some districts are trying to adapt to the demands of transgender students. For instance, the Times reports that "the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education recently issued guidelines on the treatment of transgender students, two years after the legislature passed a law banning discrimination based on gender identity."

Such institutions are no doubt hoping to avoid being thrust into the limelight, as the Fountain-Fort Carson district has been. Officials there previously declined to enter into mediation with the Mathis clan in an effort to resolve their disagreements -- and while the Colorado Springs Gazette reveals that they've submitted a response to the complaint by a March 17 deadline, they refuse to discuss its contents.

"The parents chose this forum and that's where we are going to have it resolved," district attorney Kelly Dude tells the Gazette. "There is no point arguing it in the media."

Perhaps not -- but the press' interest in the issue shows no signs of waning. The Mathis family, as represented by the TLDEF, now has thirty days to respond to the school district's filing -- and odds are good they won't keep what they have to say a secret.

Continue for our previous coverage about Coy Mathis, including photos and video. Original post, 9:53 a.m. March 8: It's a story that's gone national, and no wonder. The conflict between the Fountain-based family of Coy Mathis, a six-year-old first-grader born male who identifies as female, and the local school district over which bathroom she can access offers a fascinating window into gender questions and shifting values.

The latest development: The district won't enter into mediation with the family, which has filed a complaint on Coy's behalf. Details, photos, videos and more below.

Here's how Kathryn and Jeremy Mathis, who have four other kids aside from Coy (she's a triplet), describe their situation in a petition headlined "Our Transgender Daughter Is Just Another Girl: Tell Her School to Stop Discriminating:"

We are Kathryn and Jeremy Mathis, the parents of five children in Fountain, Colorado. One of our daughters, Coy, is six years old and in first grade. Just before Christmas, Coy's school told us that after winter break, they would no longer allow her to use the girls' bathroom, because she is transgender.

They gave Coy three options for where to go to the bathroom; the boys' room, the staff bathroom with adults, or the nurse's bathroom which is used by sick children.

Coy is not sick, she is not an adult, and she is not a boy.

Coy is a girl. She wears girls' clothes, is addressed by everyone at the school using female pronouns, and has been accepted by her classmates and teachers as a girl. But if the school separates her from all her classmates to use the bathroom, they are singling her out for mistreatment, and teaching her classmates that it's okay to discriminate.

We want our daughter to have the same educational opportunities as every other Colorado student.

We have filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Division asking the school to treat Coy like any other girl, because that's been the law in Colorado since 2007, when the state banned discrimination based on gender identity.

But we want our children's school to treat our daughter equally because it's the right thing to do, not because the law forces them to.
The intro ends with this note: "Please tell officials at Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8 that teaching children to discriminate is wrong." And plenty of people have done so. The petition has more than 25,000 signatures on it, with many of them accompanied by messages like these:
Coy IS a girl. For whatever reason, people think that the genitals of a trans person are open to discussion, this does not happen to anyone else! Maybe you should ask all the kids to show their parts before they go in. Nope, didn't think that was a good idea. Let Coy pee where she wants....

As a teacher in elementary school and a transgender person myself, I know that the well being of a child is so much more important than dogma's. We should all care for our children and let them know we love and support them unconditionally. The Mathis family is doing exactly the right thing for their daughter and should get all the support they need....

It's a bathroom with stalls, right? What's the issue?

At this point, of course, there are lots of issues. For one thing, there's a formal complaint....

Continue for more on the Coy Mathis case, including more photos and videos. Mathis family members have spread their story far and wide, using venues like Katie Couric's daytime talk show and CNN. But last month, with the assistance of the Transgender Legal & Education Defense Fund, they also filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Division. A December letter to Cheryl Serrano, superintendent of Fountain-Fort Carson School District #8, outlining the TLEDF's issues is on view below in its entirety.

According to the Colorado Springs Gazette, the district has until March 17 to respond to the TLEDF filing. In the interim, mediation was suggested as a possible way to avoid more legal entanglements, but the district said no.

Why? Officials aren't talking at this point, likely because they're wary of anything they say becoming fodder for more negative publicity.

In contrast, Michael Silverman, the TLEDF attorney handling the case, continues to speak publicly. About the no-mediation decision, he tells the Gazette, "I'm surprised. There should always be room to address concerns, but we can't do that if they won't speak to us."

As for Coy, who's said to have begun exhibiting female characteristics at eighteen months and has identified as a girl ever since, she's not presently enrolled in Eagleside Elementary School, where she'd attended up through last year's winter break, after which the bathroom controversy cropped up. But given what's happened since then, she's no doubt receiving quite an education nonetheless.

Continue to see videos of Coy, plus the December letter that preceded the formal complaint. Here's the segment featuring Coy and her family on the Katie show:

This is a discussion about Coy on CNN:

And here's the December letter:

Coy Mathis Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund Letter by

See also: "Coy Mathis's mom: No family should have to fight for respect for transgender children"

More from our Follow That Story archive: "Photos of Angie, documentary about the life and death of Angie Zapata, on Hulu."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts