Pine-Richland School District in PA Argues Transgender Students Do Not Have Equal Rights

PITTSBURGH, PA, Nov. 15, 2016 – A suburban Pittsburgh school district today asked a federal district court judge to dismiss a lawsuit brought by Lambda Legal on behalf of three transgender students challenging a discriminatory policy that singled them out and prevented them from using restrooms that match who they are. The Pine-Richland School District argued that the U.S. Constitution and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 offers no protections for transgender students and that the District is within its rights to force them to use the wrong restrooms and locker rooms or separate and more remote facilities.

“The hard-line stance taken today by the Pine-Richland School District shows how far the School District has strayed from its mission to educate and serve all its students. The School District’s argument is shameful and could have dire consequences for the safety and security of transgender students,” Lambda Legal Staff Attorney Omar Gonzalez-Pagan said. “Schools should be a place where all students feel safe and able to fully participate in their education.  Today, transgender people, and in particular transgender youth, are feeling vulnerable and exposed. With its filing today, the Pine-Richland School District has turned its back on transgender students and told its student body that discrimination is ok. That is not only wrong, it is unlawful.”

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In early October, Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit, Evancho v. Pine-Richland School District, on behalf of Pine-Richland High School students Juliet Evancho, Elissa Ridenour and A.S., who is a minor and identified by his initials. It argued that Pine-Richland’s newly-adopted discriminatory restroom policy and practice sends a purposeful message that transgender students in the school district are undeserving of the privacy, respect, and protections afforded to other students.

The lawsuit was filed after the Pine-Richland School Board voted in September to reverse the School District’s longstanding, inclusive restroom practice in response to pressure from anti-LGBT groups and individuals. The vote followed months of controversy, during which Lambda Legal sent a letter to the district on behalf of several Pine-Richland transgender students, urging officials and the school board to reject the misinformation and to continue treating transgender students equally. Lambda Legal attorneys sent additional letters and were present at several school board meetings.

Three weeks ago, Lambda Legal filed a Motion for Preliminary Injunction that sought immediately to halt enforcement of the new policy. Today, Pine-Richland filed an opposition to the Motion for Preliminary Injunction and a Motion to Dismiss.

The targeting of LGBT-inclusive policies and practices by anti-LGBT organizations is not unique to Pine-Richland and is playing out across the country. North Carolina’s controversial discriminatory law, HB 2, passed in response to the city of Charlotte’s adoption of an inclusive anti-discrimination ordinance, is the most notable example, but there have been similar efforts in Mississippi, Texas and elsewhere.

The Motion for Preliminary Injunction is here: http://www.lambdalegal.org/in-court/legal-docs/evancho_pa_20161020_motion-for-preliminary-injunction

The case is Evancho v. Pine-Richland School District. Read the complaint here:  http://www.lambdalegal.org/in-court/legal-docs/evancho_pa_20161006_complaint

Watch our video about Juliet and Elissa here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yGfsNUcDQ_Q&feature=youtu.be

Read our earlier advocacy letter here: http://www.lambdalegal.org/in-court/legal-docs/20160418_letter-re-pine-richland-transgender

To Know Your Rights about Bathrooms and Locker Rooms: http://www.lambdalegal.org/know-your-rights/youth/bathrooms-and-locker-rooms

Lambda Legal attorneys Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, Christopher Clark, and Kara N. Ingelhart are the lead attorneys on the case, joined by local counsel Tracie Palmer and David C. Williams with Kline & Specter, P.C.

Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work.