PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – A legal battle brewing in Yamhill County between a transgender student and a Christian university escalated this week, with the student’s attorney filing a formal complaint against the school.
According to the document, the student, identified only as “Jayce”, has been in a months-long struggle with George Fox University, in Newberg, Ore., over his desire to live on campus with male roommates.
A dialogue between Jayce, his mother and university officials began in December 2013 when Jayce, currently a sophomore at George Fox, emailed Associate Dean of Students Dave Johnstone notifying the school of his plans to move in with male roommates for the next academic year, the affidavit states.
A Jan. 11 email response from Johnstone, the complaint alleges, made clear no decision was made, setting into motion a series of emails and meetings in which no definitive action was taken.
The document states Jayce eventually received word from Dean of Community Life Mark Pothoff on Feb. 24 that the school decided to “conditionally approve” his request, only allowing Jayce the ability to live off campus with male roommates on a one-year exception.
A single room on campus was also reportedly made available by Pothoff, an option not in the best interest of Jayce, according to the complaint.
Jayce appealed to live on campus with his desired roommates March 27, an action denied by GFU President Robin Baker Thursday. Jayce’s attorney Paul Southwick submitted a complaint of sexual discrimination by the university to the United States Department of Education Office for Civil Rights the same day.
Jayce’s mother also acted swiftly, posting an online petition to Change.org entitled, “George Fox University: Stop Denying My Transgender Son Appropriate On-Campus Housing”.
“I am speaking out for my African-American, transgender son, Jayce, and asking for your support,” the post begins. “Jayce wants to live with his male friends in on-campus housing next year, but George Fox University recently refused to allow this because Jayce is transgender.”
More than 1,400 people signed the petition as of Friday afternoon.
“I think a lot of people try to say if he wants to be trans and live with the guys, choose another university,” Tonya McQuade, a senior at GFU, told KOIN 6 News. “It’s unfair. We need that alternative voice on campus.”
George Fox released a statement regarding the controversy Friday, explaining their commitments and beliefs as a Christian university and their handling of Jayce’s request.
“The university has researched the student’s attorney’s legal claims and believes they are without merit, especially given the religious nature of the university,” the statement concluded. “The university has made many efforts to provide support and accommodation for the student and remains committed to his academic, physical and spiritual welfare.”