Friday, October 7, 2016

Students Sue School District Over Transgender Bathroom Policy

Andrea Sears, Public News Service 

Elissa Ridenour, 18, says she has been using the girls restrooms without incident since she entered high school. (Lambda Legal)
Elissa Ridenour, 18, says she has been using the girls restrooms without incident since she entered high school. (Lambda Legal)
PITTSBURGH – Three transgender high school seniors are taking their school district to federal court over its newly-enacted restroom policy. Three weeks ago, the Pine-Richland School Board passed a resolution prohibiting transgender students from using restrooms that match their gender identity.

Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, a staff attorney with Lambda Legal, said the board had been warned repeatedly by the students, and by the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education, that the policy it had been discussing since last spring is unconstitutional.

"And they also did it knowing the harms that arise out of having a policy that discriminates on the basis of gender identity, and that erase and do not recognize the gender identity of students," he said.

The lawsuit, filed in the federal district court in Pittsburgh, asks for a permanent injunction preventing enforcement of the policy.

Gonzalez-Pagan said the new bathroom policy has created a problem where there was none. He noted that the students filing the complaint say they'd never had a problem using the restrooms appropriate to their gender identities.

"The reality is that our students were recognized and respected by their peers, teachers, and the school district as who they are," he added. "And they've been using the restrooms that match their gender identity for as long as they've been presenting as their true selves."

One of the students has been presenting as female since she entered high school.

Gonzalez-Pagan pointed out that the policy at Pine-Richland runs counter to the wave of acceptance and tolerance that has been sweeping Pennsylvania.

"In the last year, nearly a dozen school districts have passed affirming, respectful policies that allow transgender students to use the restrooms that match their gender identity," he explained.

The resolution instituting the transgender restroom policy was passed on September 12th by a five-to-four vote of the Pine-Richland School Board.

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