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Settlement Ends Discriminatory School Bathroom Policy

Juliet Evancho and Elissa Ridenour, two of the plaintiffs in the Pennsylvania lawsuit. (Lambda Legal)
Juliet Evancho and Elissa Ridenour, two of the plaintiffs in the Pennsylvania lawsuit. (Lambda Legal)
August 2, 2017

PITTSBURGH - A settlement has been reached in a federal lawsuit over a Pennsylvania school district's transgender-bathroom policy.

Known as Resolution 2, the policy adopted by the Pine-Richland school board last September required transgender students to use either facilities that match the gender on their birth certificates or separate, single-occupancy facilities. Three transgender students, who had been using facilities appropriate to their gender identities sued.

Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, a staff attorney with LGBT civil-rights group Lambda Legal, said the settlement approved by the school board ends the policy and does much more.

"The adoption of affirmative policies with regard to nondiscrimination, bathrooms, school records, names, pronouns," he said, "as well as the full repeal of Resolution 2."

While the settlement only applies to the Pine-Richland School District, Gonzalez-Pagan said rulings in the case could have implications for other lawsuits.

In February, the court issued a 50-page ruling granting a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the school district's bathroom policy. According to Gonzalez-Pagan, that ruling set an important precedent in the fight for transgender civil rights.

"A path and an explanation of how laws that discriminate on the basis of gender identity or transgender status are unconstitutional, and are subject to the highest levels of scrutiny," he said.

He said the February ruling already has been cited in other cases challenging discriminatory policies based on gender identity.

Although the three students who challenged the policy now have graduated from high school, Gonzalez-Pagan said they are happy to have achieved almost every goal they had set when they began.

"I think it's both gratifying for them to have this be over as they start their adult lives," he said, "but also because they got to make a difference - not just in their own lives, but the lives of others."

More information is online at lambdalegal.org.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - PA