ACLU sues Mat-Su school district over bathroom policy for transgender students

Class desks in front of clear windows with alternated yellow and blue tints
A classroom at Dena’ina Elementary School, which opened in 2016 (Mat-Su School District photo)

The American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District for the district’s policy that prevents transgender students from using the bathroom that matches their gender identity. 

The lawsuit, filed in superior court, alleges that the district violated the student’s constitutional rights to privacy and equal protection. The Mat-Su School Board voted 5-1 to enact a policy in 2022 that mandates that students use the bathroom that corresponds with the gender they were assigned at birth.

The ACLU suit was filed on behalf of a transgender elementary student and his parents. The lawsuit only mentions the parents and students with initials to keep them anonymous.

“Cisgender students are allowed to use a bathroom that matches their gender identity and transgender students are not, and that’s a very clear cut, understanding that under the equal protection clause of the Alaska constitution, this child’s rights are being violated,” ACLU Communications Director Meghan Barker said.

According to the suit, the student cut their hair short and began using a boy’s name last summer. They also transferred schools before the start of the year in search of a more welcoming environment. The suit says the student used the girls bathroom as required by the district policy, but was questioned by school staff for following the rule. To avoid using the girl’s bathroom, the student drinks less water or will go to single-occupancy bathrooms in the nurse’s office. 

District spokesperson Jillian Morrissey said the district had not seen the lawsuit as of Wednesday.

“Once the District receives service of the complaint, it will review the matter, file a timely answer, and provide comment as determined prudent,” Morrissey said in an email. 

The Mat-Su was the first and is still the only school district in the state to prevent transgender students from using bathrooms that match their gender identity. The Mat-Su was also the first district in the state to ban transgender athletes from competing on sports teams that match their gender identity, and additionally passed a policy requiring parental permission before a student can change their name or pronouns used at school. The district currently faces three other unrelated lawsuits.

Tim Rockey is the producer of Alaska News Nightly and covers education for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at or 907-550-8487. Read more about Tim here

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