Berks

Boyertown responds to student's lawsuit over transgender policy

BOYERTOWN, Pa. - The Boyertown Area School District responded Wednesday to a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday by a high school student and his parents.

The student claims that the school district's transgender-friendly policy constitutes sexual harassment and a violation of his personal privacy.

The boy, identified in court documents as Joel Doe, said he was changing in a school locker room on October 31 when he realized a female student was also changing in the same locker room.

The district said it allows students to use the locker room of the gender with which they identify.

The district said in a statement posted on its website that its policies are consistent with the law and that the district aims to treat all students fairly.

"The administration and staff, contrary to the allegations, offered the student-plaintiff reasonable and appropriate alternatives when he voiced opposition to changing in a designated male locker room being used by a transgender student," said Richard H. Faidley, the district's superintendent. "We also discussed those options with his guardians, explaining that at the time we were following the law of the land. Even though the federal government's position has changed since then, we are now guided by a recent federal court ruling in a Pennsylvania case, and await additional guidance from the state of Pennsylvania."

The Trump administration in February withdrew Obama-era protections for transgender students in public schools that let them use bathrooms and facilities corresponding with their gender identity.

The departments of Education and Justice issued joint guidance last May, directing schools to let transgender students use facilities that correspond with their gender identity. The "Dear Colleague" letter, addressed to school districts and colleges that receive federal funding, was based on the Obama administration's interpretation of Title IX, the federal law that bans sex discrimination in schools, to include gender identity.

The Obama administration said the guidance was based on best practices from schools across the country that have already taken up the issue. Though many states have laws consistent with the guidance, lawmakers and educators called the directive federal overreach that threatened safety and privacy of non-transgender students.

"As our nation struggles to balance the rights of individuals and groups regarding this challenging but very real issue, we ask all students, parents and community members to treat each other with the same degree of respect, dignity, and sensitivity," Faidley said. "We are committed and confident that working together we can reach a satisfactory resolution that is consistent with our mission “to enable all students to succeed in a changing world."

You can read the superintendent's statement in its entirety on the Boyertown Area School District's website.


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