Lambda Legal Asks Court to Block Pine-Richland High School’s New Restroom Policy Targeting Transgender Students

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“Senior year only happens once in your lifetime—these students can’t get this time back. The rule imposed on them by the school board is demeaning, degrading and unnecessary—not to mention against the law.”
October 20, 2016

(Pittsburgh, PA, October 20, 2016) — Today, Lambda Legal filed a Motion for Preliminary Injunction in federal court to immediately halt a discriminatory policy passed by the Pine-Richland School District in suburban Pittsburgh, which singles out transgender students and prevents them from using restrooms that match who they are. The school’s new rule – which reversed a longstanding, effective and inclusive bathroom policy – has sparked outrage nationwide and led three transgender students to file a lawsuit against the school district in federal court this month.

“For the past month, our clients Juliet, Elissa and A.S. have felt singled out and marginalized by the discriminatory restroom policy imposed by the school board. This isn’t the result of teachers or their fellow students, who overwhelmingly support them. It’s the result of a sudden, fear-based and unconstitutional policy change, in response to pressure from outside anti-LGBT groups and individuals,” Lambda Legal Staff Attorney Omar Gonzalez-Pagan said. “Senior year only happens once in your lifetime—these students can’t get this time back. The rule imposed on them by the school board is demeaning, degrading and unnecessary—not to mention against the law.”

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.

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

The lawsuit was filed after the Pine-Richland School Board last month voted 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.

“Every day I feel like I’m walking on eggshells when I come to school,” Juliet said. “It’s not right to be made to feel that way just for being who I am.”

“Everything was fine at school, I was accepted for who I am, before some parents decided to make a fuss,” Elissa added. “We just need it to go back to the way it was, when there was no problem.”

The Motion for Preliminary Injunction is here:  http://www.lambdalegal.org/in-court/legal-docs/evancho_pa_20161020_motio...

The case is Evancho v. Pine-Richland School District. Read the complaint here:  http://www.lambdalegal.org/in-court/legal-docs/evancho_pa_20161006_compl...

Watch our video about Juliet and Elissa here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yGfsNUcDQ_Q&feature=youtu.be

Read our earlier advocacy letter here: http://www.lambdalegal.org/in-court/legal-docs/20160418_letter-re-pine-r...

To Know Your Rights about Bathrooms and Locker Rooms: http://www.lambdalegal.org/know-your-rights/youth/bathrooms-and-locker-r...

Lambda Legal attorneys Omar Gonzalez-Pagan and Christopher Clark are the lead attorneys on the case, joined by local counsel Tracie Palmer and David C. Williams with Kline & Specter, P.C.


Contact Info

Tom Warnke; Cell: 213-841-4503; Email: twarnke@lambdalegal.org