George Fox gets an exemption in case of transgender student
Ruling Feds also dismiss complaint from student whose request to live on campus with male friends is denied by the Christian university
The U.S. Department of Education has dismissed the complaint of a female-to-male transgender student at George Fox University, who claimed the Christian college discriminated against him when it denied his request to live on campus with male friends.
Jayce, who has asked to be identified only by his first name, was denied his internal appeal by GFU president Robin Baker on April 3 and filed a Title IX complaint April 4 with the help of Portland attorney Paul Southwick. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits gender discrimination by educational institutions receiving federal funds.
However, it wasnt known until the decision on the complaint was announced Friday that George Fox had requested a religious exemption March 29. According to a release from the school, the exemption was granted on May 23 and according to Inside Higher Ed, the U.S. Department of Education cited the exemption in its rejection of Jayces complaint.
This is about a transgender student who wanted to move from female-only housing in May to male-only housing in September and the university offered him a single apartment or off-campus housing instead, university spokesman Rob Felton said. We sought the Title IX exemption to protect us from being forced to act in a manner inconsistent with our convictions.
Southwick said that not only did George Fox not inform him or Jayce that it had requested the religious exemption, but that the Department of Education did not either, despite numerous requests for updates on the complaint.
With George Fox, it strikes us as a lack of transparency because we were negotiating in good faith, trying to go through all the internal negotiations and internal appeal mechanisms, Southwick said. While we were going through that process, they continued to try to get information out of me saying, What exactly are your legal concerns? Tell us more. We were very upfront with them. We told them we thought there were possible violations of Title IX, the Fair Housing Act and other things.
Southwick also said that he was told by a representative in the U.S. Department of Education that it usually takes 30 days for the department to decide similar cases, but it took 90 days in Jayces case.
When it was revealed that George Fox has applied for and received the exemption, Southwick said a DOE representative informed him that he was not authorized to inform Southwick of that.
Jayce said he does not intend on leaving George Fox and in lieu of accepting the universitys offer to live alone on campus, has found an off-campus house where he will live with the male friends.
Southwick said that Jayce has 60 days to appeal the Department of Educations decision and, based on parameters handed out with the exemption, intends to do so.
The Department of Education, in granting George Fox the religious exemption, also said that the exemption will be rescinded if either the Northwest Yearly Meeting of Friends says that they do not control George Fox University or that if they do control it, that they do not have a theological position denying Jayce or another transgender student housing or other accommodations requests they make, Southwick said. Were going to appeal on both bases.
In a release posed on the universitys website, George Fox clarified its housing policy:
The university has a single-sex dorm policy it has developed in light of its religious convictions. It has the discretion to assign students to housing, including when they assert a gender inconsistent with their birth sex.
Pointing to statements made by local Quaker pastors Dr. C. Wess Daniels of Camas Friends Church and Mike Huber of West Hills Friends Church and printed by PQ Monthly, which originally broke the story on the denial of Jayces federal complaint, Southwick questions whether the schools stance is in line with Northwest Yearly Meeeting of Friends theology.
As pastors in NW Yearly Meeting, we urge George Fox University to provide safe housing for Jayce M, the pastors wrote. It is our understanding that our Faith and Practice provides no theological grounds whatsoever for excluding transgender students from housing consistent with their gender identity. As Quakers, the biblical teaching that men and women are created in the image of God convicts us that all persons have equal value and are created in the image of God (Vision, Mission and Values: 1).