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Supreme Court of the United States

Two Important Victories in the Fight for Student Privacy

By Sarah Kramer posted on:
October 17, 2017

Common sense is prevailing in the debate over student privacy.

This week, Alliance Defending Freedom was able to dismiss the Federal defendants in two lawsuits against the U.S. Department of Education (DOE): Students and Parents for Privacy v. United States Department of Education out of Illinois and Board of Education of the Highland Local School District v. United State Department of Education out of Ohio. This comes after the Departments earlier rescinded incorrect national guidance regarding Title IX, a key nondiscrimination law, and more recently terminated enforcement actions against the school districts in these lawsuits

As you may recall, the Obama Administration had unilaterally redefined “sex” to include “gender identity” and released guidance that required schools to open up their private facilities – showers, locker rooms, overnight accommodations, and restrooms – to members of the opposite sex.

In a major display of government overreach, school districts were told to make a choice: violate your students’ privacy or lose funding for your schools. That puts school districts in a tough position. By losing funding, programs such as special education and lunches for underprivileged children would be defunded as punishment for not bowing to the federal directive.

School funding should never be held captive to advance a political agenda. That’s why ADF has been hard at work representing school districts, parents, and students against policies that would open private facilities to members of the opposite sex. Instead, we promote compassionate solutions that protect the privacy and dignity of every student.

“When my school district made the decision to allow boys in the girls’ locker room and shower area, it made me feel that my rights didn’t matter,” said Sarah Harrington, a student in the Palatine School District. “I should have a choice when a boy is in the room when I undress. There are sensitive accommodations for those who are struggling with these issues that respect the privacy, dignity, and well-being of all students, because every student matters. It is common sense: Boys don’t belong in locker rooms or shower areas with girls.”

Thankfully, the DOE rescinded the Obama-era guidance back in February. And by ending its enforcement efforts with the schools in the two lawsuits,  local schools officials will be  free to put in place commonsense solutions that protect and respect the privacy of all of their students.

“Having clarified the issue nationally, the federal agencies are doing the right thing by no longer enforcing that obsolete and erroneous guidance against these local school districts,” said ADF Senior Counsel Gary McCaleb. “This was exactly what ADF and our clients sought from the federal government when we filed suit, and we commend the federal officials who have abandoned the experiment of intermingling the sexes within school locker rooms, showers, restrooms, and other privacy facilities.”

Both lawsuits have issues remaining to be litigated, as both are being pressured by activists to create or maintain policies that threaten student privacy by intermingling boys and girls within privacy facilities. And other lawsuits are ongoing, such as in Boyertown, Pennsylvania, where a student was told to “tolerate” a female student undressing in the boys’ locker room and to make it seem as “natural” as possible. And in Wisconsin, a female student has sued her school district to receive unrestricted access to the boys’ locker rooms, shower facilities, and restrooms, even though the school district already protected her privacy  with a gender-neutral, single-stall facility.

But the exit of the Federal government from the field is important: no longer will local school officials suffer the threats of federal defunding or the demands of federal bureaucrats who lacked respect for students’ privacy.


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Sarah Kramer

Sarah Kramer

Digital Content Specialist

Sarah worked as an investigative reporter before joining the Alliance Defending Freedom team.

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