A school district outside of Pittsburgh is arguing that transgender identities are not natural and these students are a threat to privacy.
Pine-Richland School District is responding to a lawsuit filed against the school last month by Lambda Legal for passing a policy mandating that transgender students could not use bathrooms or facilities that match their gender identity.
Title IX’s nondiscrimination protections on the basis of sex don’t apply to transgender students, the school argued, because sex “refers to a fixed, binary and genetically-determined sex, based on the nature of human reproduction and the irrefutable fact that we are a species of males and females.” In other words, trans people aren’t a thing.
And with that assumption in mind, it’s of “important government interest” to ensure “the privacy of its students to use the restroom outside of the presence of members of the opposite biological sex.” How other students’ privacy is put at risk the school doesn’t explain.
What’s ironic about how this filing blatantly rejects the existence of transgender identities is that it actually respects the students’ gender identities when referring to them. In fact, when writing about the three students who filed the complaint, the school seems to brag about what a great experience they’re having — claims based on what they said in their complaint:
- “Plaintiff Juliet Evancho mostly feels welcome and respected at Pine-Richland High School.”
- “Plaintiff Elissa Ridenour likewise mostly feels welcome and respected at Pine-Richland High School.”
- “Despite a rocky start to his transition to the High School, Plaintiff A.S. now feels comfortable and safe at the High School and has not faced any transphobic harassment or bullying at school.”
Lambda Legal’s complaint does describe how the students felt reasonably welcome at school — before Pine-Richland passed its anti-transgender policy back in September. Their positive experiences included comfortably using the appropriate restrooms without any incidents for years. The whole point of the suit is that the policy changed how welcome these students felt.
Juliet Evancho, for example, has spoken very publicly about how drastically things changed at school the day after the policy was implemented. She told KDKA that, first thing that next morning, a group of guys started bullying her for her gender identity and she no longer felt safe at school. “The School Board has empowered them,” her mother, Lisa Evancho said. According to Juliet, this kind of mistreatment was “all completely new.”
Lambda Legal staff attorney Omar Gonzalez-Pagan said in a statement that the district’s argument is “shameful and could have dire consequences for the safety and security of transgender students.”
The case might not be resolved anytime soon. The Supreme Court agreed last month that it would consider the identical case of Gavin Grimm, a trans student in Virginia fighting for the right to use the bathroom at his school. With that case pending, other courts will likely wait to see what precedent it might set before ruling.