Published On: Mon, Apr 24th, 2017

Pennsylvania: Three students sue Boyertown school district over privacy violations with transgender locker room, bathroom policies

Three high school students have joined another student and his parents in a federal lawsuit filed last month against the Boyertown Area School District. The district prompted the suit when it intentionally violated the bodily privacy rights of students by exposing them involuntarily to members of the opposite sex within private facilities like locker rooms and restrooms.

The three additional students joined the suit because each is at risk of the same type of privacy violation, and two have already confronted members of the opposite sex within restrooms or locker rooms. Alliance Defending Freedom and Independence Law Center attorneys, who are co-counsel for all of the students in the case, filed an amended complaint in the case Tuesday to add the new students to the suit.

photo John Hain

“Schools shouldn’t be robbing students of their legally protected personal privacy,” said ILC Chief Counsel Randall Wenger. “The children joining with the original student who filed this suit shouldn’t be forced into emotionally vulnerable situations like this when they are in the care of their schools. 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.”

Without any notice to students or parents, the school district secretly opened its schools’ sex-specific restrooms and locker rooms to students of the opposite sex. The case initially arose after one student, identified in the lawsuit as “Joel Doe,” was standing in his underwear about to put on his gym clothes when he suddenly noticed that a female student, also in a state of undress, was in the locker room.

The male student notified school officials, who told him that they now authorize students who subjectively identify themselves as the opposite sex to choose whichever locker room they wish to use. Rather than protect the student’s privacy, officials told him that he must “tolerate” the presence of a female and make changing clothes with students of the opposite sex present 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 ADF Legal Counsel Kellie Fiedorek. “But now we see that, despite Pennsylvania law requiring schools to provide separate-sex facilities, the privacy violations are even more widespread than we initially suspected.”

“Respect means protecting the personal privacy of each student, not taking it away,” added ILC Senior Counsel Jeremy Samek. “It’s regrettable that still more students must ask a federal judge to ensure that their well-established privacy rights aren’t tossed aside.”

The lawsuit, Doe v. Boyertown Area School District, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, claims sexual harassment under Title IX, a federal law; violation of the fundamental right to bodily privacy under the U.S. Constitution; and violation of a state privacy law.

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