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Parents Of Transgender Elementary Student Settle With Nova Classical Academy

ST. PAUL (WCCO) -- The family of a transgender student has settled a human rights lawsuit it served against a St. Paul Charter school.

David and Hannah Edwards enrolled their child at Nova Classical Academy charter school for the 2015-16 school year.

They thought that their 5-year-old boy, who now identifies as a girl, would learn and thrive. But instead, the parents alleged that the school violated their child's civil rights, by not protecting against gender-based bullying and hostility.

In the early spring of 2016 their story went public, and was discussed openly at school board meetings.

At the time, David Edwards told reporters, "we know from what he has shown us so far that we're going to need some protections in place in public school."

Edwards said that the school's teachers attempted to foster a welcoming and inclusive class environment, but their actions were later blocked by school leadership.

Earlier this summer the school was served with a two-count, civil discrimination lawsuit which demanded policy and training changes.

"They in some ways had no choice," says attorney, Lisa Stratton.

Stratton is lead counsel for the advocacy group, Gender Justice, which represented the family's case.

To avoid a costly and protracted court battle, the two sides chose to enter into mediation.

The action proved successful, as an agreement was recently announced that holds the school to transgender policy changes, staff training and gender neutral student uniforms.

"Those things are not small and that kind of awareness creates a welcoming environment and we're really excited that's going to be happening at Nova," Stratton said.

In addition to the policy changes, Nova will pay $120,000 in damages to the Edwards.

Nova Classical Academy attorney, Laura Booth, calls it a fair settlement to all parties involved. She adds that it will make minor revisions and clarifications to the gender inclusion policy that was adopted by Nova in May of 2016.

"It's best practice for schools to do that training on bullying, on harassment, on the various non-discrimination laws on an annual basis," Booth added.

The Edwards' now 7-year-old child withdrew from Nova in 2016 and instead attends a public elementary school.

Attorney Stratton says the lesson in this is for school administrators everywhere to be proactive.

Just a couple of weeks ago, the Minnesota Department of Education released a toolbox of model transgender student policies for schools to consider.

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