Judge Orders Restroom Access for Ohio Transgender Student

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

The Highland Local Schools in Morrow County, Ohio challenged President Obama’s transgender bathroom rule this week as a federal judge rejected the move and ordered that the male student who identifies as female be treated “like the girl she is.”

According to Julie Carr Smyth of the Associated Press, Judge Algernon Marbley said the district did not offer a persuasive argument that the student’s access to the girls’ restroom would imperil fellow students’ safety or privacy. Judge Marbley added that Highland was to use the appropriate female name and gender pronouns when referring to the 11-year-old student.

“(S)chool districts that have encountered these very issues have been able to integrate transgender students fully into the academic and social community without disruption, and certainly without the doomsday scenarios Highland predicts, such as sexual predators entering an elementary-school restroom,” he wrote.

He pointed out that there was no evidence that the student would disrupt other students’ privacy or put their safety at risk when merely using the restroom that matches her gender identity. The student’s attorney, Joseph Weissman, stated that the Court had taken a crucial step in protecting the rights of this student.

The legal team representing the school district plans to appeal the decision. Doug Wardlow, legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, said allowing boys into girls’ bathrooms violates the girls’ privacy and rights. He continued by explaining that the district had already created a policy that would respect the privacy of all students and the diverse needs of certain individual children.

The Highland schools noted that a restroom in the school office had been made available to transgender young people. But parents reported that their children were having mental health issues based on the regulation that they use a restroom that is not utilized by any other students, but is used by adults and school personnel.

The penalty for violating Title IX, the law against sex-based discrimination, could cost the Highland schools as much as $1 million.

The student, referred to as Jane Doe to protect her privacy, has already attempted suicide and has stopped using the alternative bathroom in the school office. She has also been the target of bullying, writes The Columbus Dispatch’s Earl Rinehart.

The district has barred Jane Doe from female student restrooms ever since her parents asked the school to allow her to use the girls’ bathrooms before she entered first grade. Judge Marbley said there was no way to know that a transgender student was in the bathroom used by those of the sex to which the student identifies unless someone peeked into the stall.

Asaf Orr, another of Jane Doe’s attorneys, said all the restrooms in the district have stalls and all showers have curtains. But school administrators in the District of Columbia and 14 states have filed “friend-of-the-court” briefs in support of the Highland school district’s suit.

An injunction has been issued by a federal district court in Texas against implementation of the federal regulations in a lawsuit signed by 12 states. Marbley pointed out that the injunction had no impact in Ohio because it was not one of the states involved in the suit. Also, the Highland district had not brought their case to court before a ruling was made in Texas, writes Charley Lanyon for New York Magazine.

Kate Dwyer of Teen Vogue quoted Weissman:

“Every student has a right to be free from discrimination and harassment while at school, and we are pleased the court has taken this important step in protecting Jane Doe’s rights.”