The Philadelphia Bar Association has named Elizabeth Wingfield LAW ’17 as the winner of the Ruth Bader Ginsburg “Pursuit of Justice” Legal Writing Competition. Wingfield will be recognized at the bar association’s Annual Meeting Luncheon on December 5, 2017. Her winning essay, How Transgender and Gender-Nonconforming Students May Challenge Philadelphia Charter Schools’ Gendered Dress Codes, will be published in The Philadelphia Lawyer and on the bar association’s website.
Wingfield says she chose her topic in preparation for her work as a Stoneleigh Foundation Emerging Leader Fellow at the Education Law Center, where she will advocate on behalf of LGBTQ and gender non-conforming students. Her faculty advisor, Susan DeJarnatt, noted that in addition to that very practical goal, the paper was important for its contributions to this “very timely and unexamined issue.” “I have always been impressed with Lizzy’s thoughtfulness and insight,” DeJarnatt said. “She did a wonderful job in this paper of using those qualities to focus attention on an urgent issue for a very vulnerable population.”
The statistics bear that sense of urgency out. According to Wingfield’s research, transgender and gender non-conforming students are at significantly increased risk of a variety of negative outcomes, including the risk of suicide and self-harm. Pressure to conform to gender stereotypes has often been cited as a factor in these outcomes. Many school districts, including Philadelphia and several in the surrounding suburbs, have responded by implementing policies and training programs designed to support and include transgender and gender non-conforming students. Wingfield’s specific focus is on charter schools associated with the Philadelphia School District, which may or may not follow the District’s lead on this issue.
The Ruth Bader Ginsburg “Pursuit of Justice” Legal Writing Competition was created by the Philadelphia Bar Association in 2003. Temple Law students have historically performed well in the competition, taking the top prize 11 times. Professor DeJarnatt encourages students to enter writing competitions more often. “In addition to presenting an excellent opportunity to get your work published,” she notes, “competitions often award a cash prize and/or complimentary attendance at a conference relevant to the topic of your paper. It’s a fantastic way to get your ideas and your strong research and writing skills in front of a professional audience with interests similar to yours.”