Jeydon Loredo, a South Texas transgender teenager, wants to be remembered in his high school yearbook wearing clothing that he says reflects his identity.
But the 18-year-old, who grew up female but now identifies as male, and his mother say that his school district is refusing to allow a picture of Jeydon in a tuxedo to appear in the yearbook because it violates “community standards.”
Now Jeydon and attorneys with the Southern Poverty Law Center are threatening legal action against the La Feria school district if it does not include the photo in the yearbook. La Feria, a town of about 7,300 residents, is located about 30 miles east of McAllen.
“I’ve lived here my whole life, and I’ve grown up with the kids here. … Denying my tuxedo photo would be a way for the district to forget me and everything I’ve brought to this community. The yearbook is for the students, not the faculty or the administration. It is a way for us to remember each other,” Jeydon, a senior at La Feria High School, said in a statement.
In a phone interview, Jeydon’s mother, Stella Loredo, said that during a meeting with school district Superintendent Raymundo Villarreal, she was told that the photograph of her son in a tuxedo “goes against the community standards.”
Raymundo told her that “they were a conservative school and that wouldn’t follow the school policy as far as their dress code,” she said.
Stella Loredo said she was told her son’s photograph would be included only if he wore feminine attire, such as a drape or blouse.
“That’s why I’m upset because, I mean, all of his family is accepting. All of his friends are accepting. So why can’t they?” she said.
Villarreal declined to comment about the case, citing privacy laws.
“However, I can confirm that the administration has received a request regarding a dress code variance for a senior year book picture,” he said in a statement. “The district’s legal representative has reached out to the student’s counsel to engage in communication with the hope of a resolution. The district will follow the law, district policy and the appropriate procedures as it pertains to the request.”
Alesdair Ittelson, an attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center, said the district’s action violates Jeydon’s right to freedom of expression under the First Amendment, as well as the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and Title IX, the law requiring gender equity in every educational program that receives federal funding.
Jeydon, along with Ittelson and his mother appeared before the La Feria school board on Monday to appeal the district’s decision. Stella Loredo said they had tried to get the issue placed on the agenda but were unable to and had to discuss the case during the meeting’s public comment section. The school board did not take any action.
In a letter to the school board, Ittelson said if a decision to allow the photograph in the yearbook isn’t made by Nov. 21, the law center would file a federal lawsuit.
“They have an opportunity to do the right thing here,” Ittelson said.
Jeydon’s case is similar to others around the country in recent years.
In 2010, Constance McMillen successfully challenged a rural Mississippi school district’s policy that prohibited her from bringing her girlfriend to the prom and wearing a tuxedo.
Also, in Mississippi in 2010, the American Civil Liberties Union sued the Copiah County School District on behalf of Ceara Sturgis. Sturgis’ senior portrait was left out of the Wesson Attendance Center yearbook because she wore a tuxedo in the picture. The school district reached a settlement in that lawsuit.