Civil rights complaint filed on behalf of transgender student

James F Clay/via flickr
April 25, 2014

Lawyers from the LGBT Clinic at the Cornell Law School have filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. The complaint alleges that the Tompkins-Seneca-Tioga BOCES failed to protect a transgender student from discrimination.

The Cornell Clinic filed the complaint on behalf of 18-year-old Kaleb Carthen. Kaleb is in the nursing program at the Ithaca BOCES. Designated female at birth, Kaleb has identified as male for the last two years. 

Lyndsey Marcelino is one of Kaleb’s lawyers. Marcelino says one of Kaleb’s teachers would refer to Kaleb as he-she or it.

“When Kaleb is in clinical rotation in the community the teacher will out Kaleb and say that he was born female,” says Marcelino.

Kaleb and his mother brought their concerns to school administrators. When the problems continued, they turned to the LGBT clinic at Cornell for help.

“It just seemed from the administrators that they were not going to admit any wrong doing and that they were just going to keep doing what they were already doing which wasn’t working,” says Marcelino.

After the lawyers met with school officials they felt the school wasn’t taking the issue seriously enough and failed to correct the teacher’s actions. 

The Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights is reviewing the complaint. If they decide to investigate and find violations of civil rights law, the office will work with both sides to resolve the situation.

TST BOCES Superintendent Jeffery Matteson says now that the school has received a formal complaint in writing they will start their own investigation.

“We want the same thing for this student that we want for all students. And that is to be successful in their program so they can be successful in life,” says Matteson.

Matteson would not say what actions, if any, would be taken against the teacher if their investigation shows there was discrimination.