Attorney: Civil rights complaint against CPCC filed with U.S. Education Department

Civil rights complaint stems from alleged treatment of transgender student

Student Andraya Williams speaks to a media outlet during a rally supporting her, after she says officials at Central Piedmont Community College harassed and discriminated against her.

Student Andraya Williams speaks to a media outlet during a rally supporting her, after she says officials at Central Piedmont Community College harassed and discriminated against her.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The attorney for a transgender student at Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC) has said an official complaint has now been filed against the school for their alleged mistreatment and discrimination toward the student in March.

The complaint comes even as the school has taken small steps to discuss the safety and inclusion of LGBT students on the campus. But, LGBTQ Law Center attorney Sarah Demarest says none of those conversations have included her client.

Student Andraya Williams has alleged that she was detained and harassed by CPCC security officers while exiting a restroom. She was eventually escorted off campus and told by officers that she was suspended. Williams alleges that when she tried to report the incident and file a complaint at the school, officials worked to dissuade her from doing so and one told her she had “no legal rights” as a transgender individual.

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“Since that time, CPCC has not reached out to Andraya to resolve the issue and Andraya has struggled to attend classes. Andraya feels she is losing her desire to achieve her educational goals,” a Tuesday statement from Demarest reads.

Demarest has filed the complaint, anticipated in March, on Williams’ behalf with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. Several decisions across federal agencies and courts have consistently included anti-transgender discrimination among the types of gender-based discrimination prohibited by federal law. Last month, the Department of Education released their own guidance, noting that Title IX’s prohibition on gender-based discrimination ““extends to claims of discrimination based on gender identity or failure to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity.”

“We maintain our position that Andraya was denied due process by CPCC,” Demarest says in the statement. “The treatment she received from security officers, school employees and administrators was discriminatory and constitutes a violation of both Title VII and Title IX.”

CPCC spokesperson Jeff Lowrance told qnotes the school has yet to receive notice of the complaint’s filing.

“Until such notification is received from the Dept. of Education or legal counsel, the college would have no comment,” Lowrance says.

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He also notes several steps the school has taken on matters of LGBT inclusion. Among them, college administrators have met with members of the campus’ LGBT student group and other community organizations. Students who have attended those meetings report administrators have been non-committal on moving forward with substantive policy changes.

Campus security personnel, Lowrance says, have also received training on the college’s policies and procedures. Signs conveying the presence of gender-neutral and family restrooms, of which only a small handful exist on the campus, have been installed and their locations listed on the school’s website.

Yet, CPCC apparently has not taken steps toward official policy inclusion of LGBT protections. The online version of their Equal Opportunity Policy has not been updated to include sexual orientation nor gender identity, and Lowrance declined to comment specifically on that topic.

Williams’ incident sparked campus protests, a petition drive and other activism, as the college and its officials were caught in several missteps — misleading local media on the question of Williams’ presentation of a student ID card and engaging in rounds of confrontational messages with members of the public on social media site Twitter. The school has consistently claimed they are complying with state laws.

The school’s legal counsel has declined to fully disclose materials in response to a public information request by qnotes. The newspaper received several copies of emails, but the school has declined to release public records related to their investigation of Williams’ incident and says they will not release audio recordings of campus security radio transmissions from the incident.

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Posted by Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.

2 Replies to “Attorney: Civil rights complaint against CPCC filed with U.S. Education Department”

  1. Scott Hampton May 16, 2014 at 8:23 am

    If I dress like a woman, can I use the women’s restroom? How many women would be comfortable with a man in their restroom?

  2. Williams needs to get a real life.

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