Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Court Nixes School District Policy that Restricts Transgender Students’ Bathroom Rights

Late last week, a District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania preliminarily restrained a school district from enforcing a policy that restrains transgender students’ bathroom privileges.

Three high school students filed for injunctive relief to prevent Pine-Richland School District from enforcing a resolution that forbade transgender students from using restrooms and other sex-designated facilities consistent with their gender identities.   The students also sought to prevent the District from punishing any student from acting inconsistently with the resolution, as well as taking any action that would treat the students inconsistently with their gender identities.

According to the District’s resolution, which was passed by the District’s School Board in a 5-4 vote, transgender students would have to choose between a restroom that does not conform to their gender identity or a single-stall restroom that no other District student is forced to use.  According to the student Plaintiffs, the District’s policy not only violates their civil rights, but also stigmatizes them and attempts to “erase their identities”.

In granting the student Plaintiff’s motion for injunctive relief, the Court found that the student Plaintiffs demonstrated the following:
  1. A likelihood of success on the merits of their Equal Protection claim;
  2. That they will likely suffer irreparable harm absent the grant of preliminary injunctive relief;
  3. That the balance of the equities weighs in favor of granting such relief; and 
  4. That the entry of preliminary injunctive relief is in the public interest.

The Court’s order will become effective March 1, 2017 and, in the meantime, Defendant School District will answer student Plaintiff’s complaint.

Evancho et al v. Pine-Richland School District et al. is yet another case to watch out for as the laws on transgender rights develop and a reminder of the need to accommodate the transgender person’s gender identity; not the person who might be uncomfortable with that accommodation.