A transgender former high school student who was barred from his senior prom in Gary because he was wearing a pink dress for the occasion will have his day in court.
U.S. District Judge Joe Van Bokkelen issued a 10-page order late Thursday that denied the school corporation's motion to dismiss the case of Kevin Logan v. Gary Community School Corp., et al., No. 2:07-CV-431.
The case involves a prom dress-code incident in May 2006, where a school principal blocked Logan – who goes by "K.K." – from entering the school event because of what he was wearing, even though a female student wearing a tuxedo was allowed to enter.
While in school, Logan was known to wear clothes typically associated with girls his age. But the principal cited a school policy for the entry denial, and Logan eventually filed suit in the Northern District.
The northern Indiana school district filed a motion to dismiss in February, arguing the court didn't have jurisdiction to hear Logan's case on the grounds that federal law doesn't dictate local school dress codes, especially when constitutional rights haven't been violated.
But in his ruling, Judge Van Bokkelen is clear the federal court has jurisdiction in rejecting each of the school's arguments: that the separation of powers doctrine doesn't preclude his court from hearing the case; that the issue isn't moot despite Logan's status as a former student because it's a facial challenge to a rule under the First Amendment; and that the school officials aren't immune under the 11th Amendment because they aren't arms of the state.
Judge Van Bokkelen found that the First Amendment issues and the Title IX claims on why Logan was excluded from the prom – because of sexual orientation or dress code – need further development and it would be premature to dismiss the case now. He explicitly rejected the school's argument that "it is high time the Federal Court" stopped interfering with school administration, citing caselaw that shows federal courts do have the authority to review school decisions even though they often defer to local school leaders in establishing policy.