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PA School District Says Transgender Students Have No Protections

The transgender students in one Pittsburgh-area high school can use only single-stall restrooms, or ones that don't match their gender identity. (sarahmirk/Wikimedia Commons)
The transgender students in one Pittsburgh-area high school can use only single-stall restrooms, or ones that don't match their gender identity. (sarahmirk/Wikimedia Commons)
November 16, 2016

PITTSBURGH - A suburban Pittsburgh school district claims it is within its rights to require transgender students to use restrooms and locker rooms that don't match their gender identity - or to use totally separate facilities.

The Pine-Richland School District asked a federal court on Monday to dismiss a lawsuit filed on behalf of three high school seniors, saying neither the Constitution nor federal law protects transgender students. Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, an attorney with Lambda Legal, said several other courts have disagreed with the school's argument.

"Courts in Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, Wisconsin have already held in favor of very similar claims to the ones we're making under Title IX and the Equal Protection Clause," he said.

According to Gonzalez-Pagan, the school board reversed its longstanding, inclusive restroom policy in response to pressure from anti-LGBT groups and individuals.

"For several years, transgender students were allowed to use the restroom consistent with their gender identity," he said, "and the administration nor we are aware of any problems or incidents, or misconduct by any students."

Meanwhile, he said the three plaintiffs in the case have found their senior year disrupted, and their safety and security at school compromised.

"They feel stigmatized and marginalized for being forced to either use a restroom that nobody else is forced to use or being relegated to use restrooms that are not consistent with who they are," he said.

The restroom policy was enacted this fall. Lambda Legal has requested a temporary injunction preventing the policy from being enforced. A hearing on that request is scheduled for Dec. 1.

More information is online at lambdalegal.org.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - PA