Ap­peal of policy rul­ing likely

Court sides with school district on use of bath­rooms by trans­gen­der stu­dents

The Community Connection - - FRONT PAGE - By Tony Phyril­las tphyril­las@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @tony­phyril­las on Twit­ter

Le­gal ad­vo­cacy groups who filed a law­suit chal­leng­ing the Boyertown Area School District’s policy on the use of bath­rooms by trans­gen­der stu­dents are con­sid­er­ing an ap­peal of a re­cent court rul­ing.

A fed­eral ap­peals court sided with the school district May 24 over the ob­jec­tions of six stu­dents who chal­lenged the district’s policy.

The Third Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals in Philadel­phia es­sen­tially agreed with a lower court rul­ing af­firm­ing the school district’s ex­ist­ing policy of al­low­ing trans­gen­der stu­dents to use any bath­room or locker room they wish.

Six stu­dents sued the school district claim­ing their right to pri­vacy was be­ing vi­o­lated by al­low­ing trans­gen­der stu­dents to use the same fa­cil­i­ties.

The law­suit was filed by two le­gal ad­vo­cacy groups — the In­de­pen­dence Law Cen­ter and the Al­liance De­fend­ing Free­dom — on be­half of the Boyertown Area

High School stu­dents, in­clud­ing Alexis Light­cap, who is a se­nior this year.

Light­cap has be­come the pub­lic face of the law­suit against the district, ap­pear­ing in a 6-minute YouTube video where she dis­cusses an en­counter with a male stu­dent in the a women’s bath­room at the high school. The video was produced by the Al­liance De­fend­ing Free­dom and is fea­tured promi­nently on the group’s web­site.

“To­day’s rul­ing was very dis­ap­point­ing, and made me feel — again — like my voice was not heard,” Light­cap said af­ter the ap­peals court is­sued its rul­ing. “Ev­ery stu­dent’s pri­vacy should be pro­tected.”

The ad­vo­cacy groups are con­sid­er­ing an ap­peal.

“No stu­dent should be forced into an in­ti­mate set­ting — like a locker room or shower — with some­one of the op­po­site sex,” said Ran­dall Wenger, chief coun­sel for the In­de­pen­dence Law Cen­ter. “The Boyertown District could have crafted poli­cies that respect the pri­vacy con­cerns of all stu­dents and are also sen­si­tive to the needs of in­di­vid­ual stu­dents. In­stead, the district failed to ful­fill its re­spon­si­bil­ity and harmed stu­dents right­fully con­cerned about their bod­ily pri­vacy. The district must cor­rect its policy — not only for our clients, but for all stu­dents within the Boyertown Area School District.”

The rul­ing was hailed by the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union and the The Anti-Defama­tion League — two groups that filed am­i­cus (friend-of-the court) briefs on be­half of the school district — as a vic­tory for the trans­gen­der com­mu­nity.

“The de­ci­sion by the ap­peals court in this case reaf­firms the le­gal rights and dig­nity of trans­gen­der stu­dents in schools,” said An­tiDefama­tion League Re­gional Di­rec­tor Nancy K. Baron-Baer. “It marks a sig­nif­i­cant vic­tory, not just for the stu­dents at Boyertown, but for all stu­dents who seek safe and in­clu­sive learn­ing en­vi­ron­ments.”

Another at­tor­ney rep­re­sent­ing the six stu­dents said the is­sue is far from set­tled.

“The Supreme Court has al­ready spo­ken: The real dif­fer­ences be­tween men and women mean that pri­vacy must be pro­tected where it re­ally counts, and that cer­tainly in­cludes high school locker rooms and re­strooms,” said Chris­tiana Hol­comb, le­gal coun­sel for the Al­liance De­fend­ing Free­dom. “This de­ci­sion is out of step with long­stand­ing le­gal pro­tec­tion for pri­vacy. We will con­tinue ad­vo­cat­ing for th­ese young stu­dents.”

The school district is­sued the fol­low­ing state­ment May 24:

The Boyertown Area School District (BASD), which deeply re­spects and is sen­si­tive to the pri­vacy rights of all stu­dents, is grat­i­fied with the Third Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals rul­ing to­day that un­ques­tion­ably sup­ports the District’s ac­tions re­gard­ing mat­ters of bath­room/locker room fa­cil­ity ac­cess and ac­com­mo­da­tion. It is the hope of the BASD Board and Ad­min­is­tra­tion that this de­ci­sion, which af­firmed the lower court’s rul­ing, will be viewed as val­i­da­tion of the thought­ful and com­pas­sion­ate ac­tions that have been taken to en­sure a wel­com­ing, qual­ity ed­u­ca­tional en­vi­ron­ment for all of our stu­dents. While we have al­ways rec­og­nized the right of the de­fen­dants to file their chal­lenge, to­day we ac­knowl­edge and ap­plaud all those that have sup­ported our ef­forts, in­clud­ing the work of our le­gal team, and look for­ward to the day when this case can be marked “closed.”

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF AL­LIANCE DE­FEND­ING FREE­DOM

Alexis Light­cap is a plain­tiff in the stu­dent pri­vacy law­suit against the Boyertown Area School District.

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