The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Group threatens to sue school over reading of transgender teen Jazz Jennings’s book

Jazz Jennings speaks at the GLAAD gala in November. (Kimberly White/Getty Images for GLAAD)
Placeholder while article actions load

Under threat of a lawsuit, a Wisconsin elementary school canceled a reading of “I Am Jazz,” a book about transgender teen activist Jazz Jennings.

The book was to be read at Mount Horeb Primary Center last week because one of the students there was born male and now identifies as female.

“We refer to this as having a girl brain and a boy body,” the school’s principal said in a letter to parents. “Together we have come up with a plan to support this student in living as her authentic self.”

Parents might have recognized Jennings from the TLC series about her life as a transgender child. Jennings has identified as female since she was 2. Her parents supported her and began to open up to the public about her experience when Jennings was 7.

[How a transgender teen became a nationally known activist]

I Am Jazz” is an extension of a documentary about her life that appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Network. “Orange Is the New Black” actress and trans woman Laverne Cox called the book “deeply moving in its simplicity and its honesty.”

Some Mount Horeb Elementary parents did not have the same warm feelings. In a letter sent to the school on their behalf, the Liberty Counsel litigation group called the reading a violation of “parental rights.”

Referring to Jennings as a “male child ‘transgender’ activist who has been permitted to undergo harmful gender reassignment drug therapy and hormone blockers,” Liberty Counsel stated that the book would teach children about “a psychological and moral disorder” and cause them to “falsely believe that one can choose one’s gender.”

This stance is in contrast to the current definition from the American Psychiatric Association, which explicitly states that gender nonconformity is not a mental disorder.

The letter was signed by attorney Richard L. Mast Jr., who pushed for Virginia universities to offer materials from Voice of the Voiceless, the “ex-gay” group for those whose same-sex orientation is “unwanted.”

Mast threatened “a federal lawsuit against teachers and staff in their official and individual capacities for violation of parental rights.”

After receiving the letter, the school district canceled the reading of “I Am Jazz.”

“As we seek to address the specific needs of the individual student, the District will also be mindful of the needs of other District students and families, and will strive to keep all of the families whose children may be affected apprised of future actions by the District,” a news release provided to the Capital Times said. “Please know that our continuing goal is to protect all students from any bullying, harassing or intimidating behavior at school so that all of our students may learn together in a safe and caring environment.”

Jennings posted the story on her Facebook page with a one-word comment:


Read more: 

‘I Am Jazz’ is the latest in this summer’s transgender reality show boom

An Illinois high school’s tragic discrimination against a transgender student

Becoming Nicole: When one male twin identifies as a female