Two organizations want the high court to hear an appeal of a prior ruling upholding the rules allowing students to use bathrooms and locker rooms of the gender with which they identify.
WRITTEN BY HOLLY HERMAN
Two groups representing former and current Boyertown High School students asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday to halt a policy allowing transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms of the gender with which they identify.
Alliance Defending Freedom, an Arizona-based advocate of the Christian right, and Independence Law Center, a Harrisburg civil rights legal organization, asked the nation's highest court to hear an appeal of the federal court ruling upholding the Boyertown School District's transgender policy.
The U.S. District Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit in July denied a request for the entire court to rehear a case in which three members of the appeals court upheld Boyertown's transgender policy.
The landmark case began in March 2017 when a Boyertown High School student and his parents filed a federal lawsuit accusing the school district of violating the student's privacy rights when he was involuntarily exposed to a transgender student who was born female undressing in the boys locker room.
The student said that on Oct. 31, 2016, he witnessed a transgender female without a shirt on in the boys locker room. Five other students and their parents joined the case.
In August 2017, a federal judge upheld the policy, rejecting arguments by six current and former Boyertown students that the policy violates a legal right to privacy.
Attorney John Bursch, an Alliance Defending Freedom lawyer representing the students, on Monday said that the 3rd Circuit appeals ruling should be reversed.
“Everyone should be able to agree that students struggling with their beliefs about gender need compassionate support,” Bursch said. “But there are sound reasons why schools have always separated male and female teenagers in showers, restrooms and locker rooms.
“No student's recognized right to bodily privacy should be made contingent on what other students believe about their own gender.”
After a 90-minute hearing in May, the three-judge panel ruled from the bench that the Boyertown policy to allow transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice was in accordance with law.
After the ruling, Ria Mar, an ACLU attorney representing the Youth Congress, a Harrisburg nonprofit that advocates for LGBQ youth, said the decision was correct.
“I think the court recognized that inclusion of transgender students is not only the right thing to do, but it's the legally correct thing to do,” Mar said. “We're thrilled.”
On Monday, Randall Wenger, chief counsel of the Independence Law Center, countered that students should not be required to use bathrooms with students of the opposite sex.
“No student should be forced into an intimate setting — like a locker room or shower — with someone of the opposite sex,” Wenger said.