Judge: Bathroom choice a decision for Pine-Richland transgender students
February 27, 2017 6:10 PM
Juliet Evancho, left, and Elissa Ridenour. “Even though it’s such a small win, it really is huge in this respect," Elissa said. "I’m very happy and it’s a relief,” she said. “We still have a fight left to go, but we’re not going to give up.”
Sara D. Davis/Getty Images
A federal ruling on Monday sided with three transgender students in the Pine-Richland School District and will allow the students to decide for themselves which restroom they choose to use.
By Torsten Ove / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
A federal judge on Monday said three transgender students at Pine-Richland High School can use the bathroom of their choice.
U.S. District Judge Mark Hornak granted a preliminary injunction request brought by the students and an advocacy group that sought to halt the enforcement of a policy at Pine-Richland that required the students to use the bathrooms matching their biological gender or to use unisex bathrooms.
“This is a huge win for Juliet, Elissa and A.S., who will be able once again to use the bathroom that matches who they are,” said Lambda Legal staff attorney Omar Gonzalez-Pagan. “The court recognized that policies that seek to erase a transgender student’s identity do not address any real problems, but rather only serve to discriminate and harm our youth.”
Judge Hornak said the students “appear to the court to be young people seeking to do what young people try to do every day — go to school, obtain an education, and interact as equals with their peers.”
He said the plaintiffs have shown a reasonable likelihood of success on the merits of their claim that Pine-Richland’s enforcement of its rule is discriminatory, and he denied the district’s request to throw out the suit.
The case will continue in federal court but the students can use whatever bathroom they choose for now.
One of the students, Elissa Ridenour, 18, said she was relieved when her attorney called her Monday with the news. She said she and her fellow plaintiffs can start using the bathroom of their choice on Tuesday.
“Even though it’s such a small win, it really is huge in this respect. I’m very happy and it’s a relief,” she said. “We still have a fight left to go, but we’re not going to give up.”
In his ruling, Judge Hornak made a point to say that the district has “worked hard to treat all students, including the plaintiffs, with respect and to provide all students with an excellent education in an inclusive environment.”
He said the district’s administrators have tried to comply with the law while fulfilling the directives of the school board.
“Their effort to navigate the confluence of the competing demands present here was considerable,” he said, “and it is likely not the easiest task they have ever confronted.”
Lambda Legal filed the suit in October on behalf of the three students after the district in September adopted Resolution 2, the policy restricting transgender bathroom use.
Torsten Ove: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1504.