School District Argues Transgender Students Do Not Have Equal Rights

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November 15, 2016

A suburban Pittsburgh school district asked a federal district court judge yesterday to dismiss Lambda Legal’s lawsuit on behalf of three transgender students.

The lawsuit challenges the Pine-Richland School District discriminatory policy that singles out transgender students and prevents them from using restrooms that match who they are.

The school district argued that the U.S. Constitution and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 offer no protections for transgender students and that the district is within its rights to force them to use the wrong restrooms and locker rooms, or separate and more remote facilities.

Lambda Legal Staff Attorney Omar Gonzalez-Pagan says:

The hardline stance taken by the Pine-Richland School District shows how far the school district has strayed from its mission to educate and serve all its students. The school district’s argument is shameful and could have dire consequences for the safety and security of transgender students.

Schools should be a place where all students feel safe and able to fully participate in their education.  Today, transgender people — and in particular transgender youth — are feeling vulnerable and exposed.

With its filing today, the Pine-Richland School District has turned its back on transgender students and told its student body that discrimination is OK. That is not only wrong, it is unlawful.

In early October, Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit, Evancho v. Pine-Richland School District, on behalf of Pine-Richland High School students Juliet Evancho, Elissa Ridenour and A.S., who is a minor and identified by his initials.

The lawsuit argues that Pine-Richland’s newly adopted discriminatory restroom policy and practice sends a purposeful message that transgender students in the school district are undeserving of the privacy, respect and protections afforded to other students.

Lambda Legal filed the lawsuit after the Pine-Richland School Board voted in September to reverse the school district’s longstanding, inclusive restroom practice in response to pressure from anti-LGBT groups and individuals.

The vote followed months of controversy, during which Lambda Legal sent a letter to the district on behalf of several Pine-Richland transgender students, urging officials and the school board to reject the misinformation and to continue treating transgender students equally. Lambda Legal attorneys sent additional letters and were present at several school board meetings.

The targeting of LGBT-inclusive policies and practices by anti-LGBT organizations is not unique to Pine-Richland and is playing out across the country. North Carolina’s controversial discriminatory law HB 2, passed in response to the city of Charlotte’s adoption of an inclusive anti-discrimination ordinance, is the most notable example, but there have been similar efforts in Mississippi, Texas and elsewhere.