PHILADELPHIA - A high school student and his parents are taking the Boyertown Area School District to court, claiming the district's transgender-friendly policy constitutes sexual harassment and a violation of personal privacy.
The student, identified in court documents as Joel Doe, said he was changing for gym class in a school locker room on October 31 when he realized there was also a female student present, wearing only shorts and a bra, according to a federal lawsuit filed in Philadelphia on Tuesday by attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom and the Independence Law Center.
"No school should rob any student of his legally protected personal privacy," Randall Wenger, chief counsel of the Independence Law Center. "We trust that our children won’t be forced into emotionally vulnerable situations like this when they are in the care of our schools because it’s a school’s duty to protect and respect the bodily privacy and dignity of all students. In this case, school officials are clearly ignoring that duty."
According to the attorneys who filed the suit, the male student subsequently complained to school officials, who informed him that they now allow students who identify as the opposite sex to choose whichever locker room they wish. The student then asked the school officials to protect his privacy, but he was twice told that he must "tolerate" it and make changing with students of the opposite sex as "natural" as he can.
"Our laws and customs have long recognized that we shouldn't have to undress in front of persons of the opposite sex," said Kellie Fiedorek, legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom. "But now some schools are bullying our children into giving up their rights even though, in this case, Pennsylvania law requires schools to have separate facilities on the basis of sex."
The Boyertown Area School District responded to 69 News' request for comment with the following statement:
"On Tuesday, March 21, 2017 the Boyertown Area School District received a demand letter from multiple attorneys related to student bathroom use.
"A complaint has not been officially served to the Boyertown Area School District. The attorneys have given the district until April 4, 2017 to formulate a response.
"Boyertown Area School District is reviewing this matter with our legal counsel and has no further comment at this time."
The Trump administration last month 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.
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