Judge rules for district

Stu­dents sued, say­ing pol­icy for trans­gen­der student use of bath­rooms, locker rooms vi­o­lated pri­vacy

The Community Connection - - FRONT PAGE - By Evan Brandt ebrandt@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @PottstownNews on Twit­ter

Just in time for the start of school Aug. 28, a fed­eral judge has sided with the Boyertown Area School District in a law­suit in­volv­ing its pol­icy for trans­gen­der student use of bath­rooms and locker rooms.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­port from WFMZ Aug. 25, Judge Ed­ward G. Smith de­nied a re­quest for a pre­lim­i­nary in­junc­tion as part of a law­suit filed against the school district by four stu­dents whose names have been with­held to pro­tect their iden­tity.

The stu­dents ar­gued that al­low­ing trans­gen­der stu­dents to use the bath­rooms and locker rooms of their choice at the high school vi­o­lated their right to pri­vacy. The judge ruled on Fri­day, Aug. 25, the plain­tiffs had failed to show that their claims of in­va­sion of pri­vacy and sex­ual ha­rass­ment war­ranted relief by the court.

The Al­liance De­fend­ing Free­dom, which pro­vided at­tor­neys for the plain­tiffs, told WFMZ it is con­sult­ing with its clients be­fore de­cid­ing whether to ap­peal the judge’s rul­ing.

An at­tempt to reach David Krem, Boyertown’s act­ing school’s su­per­in­ten­dent, was un­suc­cess­ful.

Ear­lier this month, the four stu­dents who filed the suit ar­gued in court that Boyertown never made its pol­icy pub­lic, and that en­coun­ter­ing a trans­gen­der student in the locker room made them feel

em­bar­rassed and un­com­fort­able, ac­cord­ing to pub­lished re­ports.

Ac­cord­ing to the web­site of the Al­liance De­fend­ing Free­dom, the plain­tiffs are two girls and two boys, one of whom was stand­ing in his un­der­wear in the boys’ locker room when he looked up to see a trans­gen­der student who iden­ti­fies as a male stand­ing nearby, also in un­der­wear.

The rul­ing was hailed as a vic­tory by the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union, which is among sev­eral groups that were in­volved in the le­gal pro­ceed­ing on the school district’s side. And the rul­ing fol­lowed their pre­dic­tions made ear­lier in the month.

“No court has granted an in­junc­tion like the one sought by the plain­tiffs,” Ria Tabacco Mar, staff at­tor­ney for the ACLU’s LGBT and HIV Project said in an Aug. 11 state­ment.

“Those who brought this law­suit must show that a rul­ing in their fa­vor will do more good than harm. But such a rul­ing would greatly harm trans­gen­der stu­dents,” Mar said.

“Trans­gen­der stu­dents should have the op­por­tu­nity to learn in an en­vi­ron­ment where they feel safe. We are grate­ful that the court agreed that the plain­tiffs’ de­sire to stop what the district is do­ing had no ground­ing in le­gal prin­ci­ples,” Reg­gie Shu­ford, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the ACLU of Penn­syl­va­nia, told WFMZ.

“The stakes in this lit­i­ga­tion are high for trans­gen­der stu­dents at Boyertown. The district’s prac­tice gives them the op­por­tu­nity to at­tend school in a re­spect­ful and af­firm­ing en­vi­ron­ment,” Mary Cather­ine Roper, deputy le­gal di­rec­tor of the ACLU of Penn­syl­va­nia, said in the Aug. 11 re­lease prior to the court rul­ing.

“The chal­lenges that teens face are en­hanced for trans­gen­der stu­dents, who are com­ing to grips with their gen­der iden­tity,” said Roper.

“No one on any side of this de­bate is se­ri­ously sug­gest­ing that children strug­gling with their bi­o­log­i­cal sex shouldn’t also have pri­vacy. In fact, ADF and many oth­ers have been ac­tively ad­vo­cat­ing for com­pas­sion­ate so­lu­tions that re­spect the pri­vacy of all stu­dents,” reads an Aug. 10 state­ment posted on the Al­liance web­site.

“In fact, set­ting aside the ur­gency of the re­lent­less me­dia spot­lights and the noisy im­pa­tience of the pro­fes­sional so­cial ag­i­ta­tors, we find plenty of thought­ful peo­ple on all sides of th­ese thorny is­sues who are more than will­ing to think through the prob­lems and work out rea­son­able so­lu­tions,” the Al­liance state­ment read.

The case has put Boyertown schools in the spot­light of a na­tional de­bate about the rights of trans­gen­der peo­ple.

Smith was ap­pointed to the fed­eral bench on Aug. 1, 2013 by Pres­i­dent Obama.

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