Pennsylvania students appeal decision that allows violation of their bodily privacy
UPDATE: On July 26, 2018, the 3rd Circuit denied rehearing en banc, though some judges dissented. The 3rd Circuit panel granted rehearing, vacating its previous opinion and issuing a new one.
PHILADELPHIA – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys and allied attorneys representing students and parents at Boyertown Area School District asked the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit Monday to take up their case after a three-judge panel ruled that their privacy concerns didn’t merit protection.
During the 2016-17 school year—without informing parents or students—the school district secretly opened its high school locker rooms, showers, and restrooms to students of the opposite sex, which violated students’ bodily privacy rights. Some of the students in the suit involuntarily encountered students of the opposite sex in various states of undress in school restrooms and locker rooms.
“The U.S. Supreme Court has already spoken: The real differences between men and women mean that privacy must be protected where it really counts, and that certainly includes high school locker rooms and restrooms,” said ADF Legal Counsel Christiana Holcomb. “The panel’s decision is out of step with longstanding legal protection for privacy. That’s why we are asking the full 3rd Circuit to weigh in on the valid concerns of these young students.”
Immediately after the 3rd Circuit panel’s ruling, Alexis Lightcap, a student at Boyertown Area Senior High School who is a plaintiff in the lawsuit commented, “Today’s ruling was very disappointing, and made me feel—again—like my voice was not heard. Every student’s privacy should be protected.”
“No student should be forced into an intimate setting—like a locker room or shower—with someone of the opposite sex,” said ADF-allied attorney Randall Wenger, chief counsel of the Independence Law Center. “The Boyertown District could have crafted policies that respect the privacy concerns of all students and are also sensitive to the needs of individual students. Instead, the district failed to fulfill its responsibility and harmed students rightfully concerned about their bodily privacy. The district must correct its policy—not only for our clients, but for all students within the district.”
The lawsuit, Doe v. Boyertown Area School District, claims violation of the fundamental right to bodily privacy under the U.S. Constitution; sexual harassment under Title IX, a federal law; and violation of a state privacy law.
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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