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Pa. students ask US Supreme Court to reverse decision that allows violation of their bodily privacy

ADF represents students, parents challenging locker room, restroom policy
Alexis Lightcap

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PHILADELPHIA – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing Pennsylvania students and their parents, along with Independence Law Center, asked the U.S. Supreme Court Monday to take up their case after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit ruled that the students’ privacy didn’t merit protection.

During the 2016-17 school year—without informing parents or students—the Boyertown Area School District opened its high school locker rooms and restrooms to students of the opposite sex based on those students’ beliefs about their gender. Some male students learned of the policy while they were undressing in their locker room and discovered that a female student was changing clothes with them. Embarrassed and confused, the students sought help from school officials, who told them they should just “tolerate it” and “make it as natural as possible.” 

After parents got involved, the officials told students their alternative was to stop using the boys’ locker room. Another Boyertown student, Alexis Lightcap, learned of the policy when she encountered a boy in her restroom. She was shocked, afraid, and fled the room, but school officials refused to listen to her privacy concerns either.

“Everyone should be able to agree that students struggling with their beliefs about gender need compassionate support,” said ADF Senior Counsel and Vice President of Appellate Advocacy John Bursch. “But there are sound reasons why schools have always separated male and female teenagers in showers, restrooms, and locker rooms. No student’s recognized right to bodily privacy should be made contingent on what other students believe about their own gender. The 3rd Circuit’s decision made a mess of bodily privacy and Title IX principles, and the decision deserves review and reversal by the U.S. Supreme Court.”

The lawsuit, Doe v. Boyertown Area School District, claims that the school is violating its students’ fundamental right to bodily privacy under the U.S. Constitution and effectively denying them access to locker room and restroom facilities on the basis of sex under Title IX. ADF attorneys and allied attorneys filed the petition with the Supreme Court because the full 3rd Circuit declined in July to rehear the case.

“These types of school policies have serious privacy implications,” said ADF Legal Counsel Christiana Holcomb. “Teenagers should not be forced to welcome members of the opposite sex into their showers, restrooms, or locker rooms based on what they believe about their gender. All schools, including Boyertown Area School District, should be providing support for those dealing with gender dysphoria, but they should seek to do so in ways that protect the privacy of all students.”

As the petition to the Supreme Court in the case explains, “It is untenable that the Third Circuit made students’ right to bodily privacy contingent on what others believe about their own gender.” The brief continues, “Recognizing this reality does not diminish the concern for students who believe they are of the opposite sex. Schools can (and should) teach that every student has inherent dignity and worth and should be treated as such. Schools can (and should) assure students with gender dysphoria that they are valuable and important members of the school community. And school officials can (and should) provide them with resources and support. Despite such alternatives, Boyertown chose to violate the privacy rights of all other students.”

“Schools should not expect students to accept that the differences between females and males don’t matter in the very places set apart for privacy from the opposite sex,” said Randall Wenger, chief counsel of Independence Law Center, whose attorneys serve as co-counsel and are among more than 3,200 attorneys allied with ADF. Independence Law Center is a Pennsylvania-based pro-bono legal organization dedicated to advancing civil rights.

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.


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