Transgender Students Fight for Equality and Dignity

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October 6, 2016
Juliet Evancho

For years, Juliet Evancho, Elissa Ridenour, A.S. and other transgender students at Pine-Richland School District in suburban Pittsburgh, used restrooms that matched their gender identity.

What disasters did this commonsense, inclusive practice cause? Absolutely none, of course.

Nonetheless, last month, the school board caved in to pressure from bullying anti-LGBT groups and opponents of the school district’s inclusive practice, and implemented a new discriminatory policy that singles out transgender students.

That’s not just wrong. It’s illegal. And today, Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit against the school district to put a stop to their new policy.

Public school districts have a responsibility to treat all students, including transgender students, with dignity and respect and by affording them equal educational opportunities. Forcing transgender students to use the restrooms that do not match their gender identity or forcing them to use separate single-stall restrooms erases transgender students’ gender identity, endangers their health and safety, and isolates them from the rest of the student body. No transgender student anywhere should be treated like a second-class student.

Elissa Ridenour

The targeting of LGBT-inclusive and affirming policies and practices by anti-LGBT organizations is not unique to Pine-Richland and is playing out across the country. North Carolina’s controversial anti-LGBT 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, Houston and elsewhere.

In the complaint filed today, Lambda Legal argues that the school district’s newly-adopted policy is unconstitutional because it discriminates on the basis of sex in violation of Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments, and on the basis of sex and gender identity in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Pine-Richland’s newly adopted policy cannot stand and should be reversed immediately. The district’s longstanding practice of fostering a safe environment for all its students and respecting the gender identity of transgender students worked well for years. Transgender students already face too many challenges, they shouldn’t have to be disrespected and degraded while at school, too.

Know Your Rights About Bathrooms and Locker Rooms.