Boyertown Area Schools Restroom Policy Upheld

An appeals court decision said excluding transgender students from facilities other students use would increase stigma and discrimination

By Andrea Sears, Public News Service
For The Post Publications

WASHINGTON DC – A decision Tuesday (May 28, 2019) by the U.S. Supreme Court involving the Boyertown Area School District is being hailed by proponents as a victory for transgender students in Pennsylvania and nationwide.

The nation’s highest court declined to hear an appeal of a case that upheld the district policy of allowing transgender students to use restrooms that match their gender.

The 2016 policy was challenged by a group of students who claimed the presence of transgender students in restrooms and locker rooms is a form of sexual harassment. That argument was rejected by a federal District Court, and the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

The appeals court said excluding transgender students from facilities other students use would increase the stigma and discrimination that transgender students already face.

Because Supreme Court justices did not review the case the earlier court rulings still stand, Mary Catherine Roper, deputy legal director of the Pennsylvania office of the American Civil Liberties Union, explained. However, because the district court ruling was based on a preliminary record, the plaintiffs still can go back to that court and ask for a full trial, she said.

Tuesday’s development means “school districts do have the legal ability to protect transgender student rights,” Roper added, “and we think, although it wasn’t an issue in this case, they have the obligation to do that.” She noted that allowing the appeals court ruling to stand should have important implications for other cases around the country in which the equal rights of transgender people are being challenged.

“The important principle from this case is that it doesn’t hurt a cisgender person when you allow a transgender person to live according to their identity,” she said.

The Trump administration has proposed to ban transgender people from military service, allow doctors to refuse to treat transgender patients, and allow discrimination in homeless shelters, Roper claimed. Those efforts to roll back transgender rights on the federal level also are being challenged, she said.

“Whatever the Trump administration says about federal policy,” she said, “they can’t stop a school district from doing the right thing.”