The American Civil Liberties Union has asked the U.S. District Court for Southern Ohio to allow it to intervene in legal action filed against the Bethel Local Schools in Miami County over access to restroom facilities for transgender students.
The ACLU petitioned to intervene on behalf of a transgender student in the case Doe v. Bethel, which challenged the district’s decision allowing transgender students to use communal restrooms consistent with their gender identity. The suit seeks an injunction to bar transgender students from access to the gender identity restrooms.
The school district declined comment on the matter through Jacob Watson, communications director, citing pending litigation.
The ACLU said in an announcement of its motion that the school’s accommodation is appropriate and should not be disturbed by court order.
“Transgender students all too often suffer from discrimination and bullying. The school’s current approach helps to protect them from being singled out, suffering humiliation, and being exposed to serious risks of harm,” said David Carey, deputy legal director at the ACLU of Ohio. “One student’s religious beliefs do not provide a basis to exclude another student from full participation in the school environment.”
The ACLU contends that the public has a strong interest in advancing policies that affirmatively protect transgender students and create inclusive school environments. Prohibiting transgender girls from using the girls’ restrooms would subject them to social stigma, and deny them equal access to the education afforded to all other students, the organization contends.
The lawsuit was filed in November in federal court by parents and the America First Legal organization. It seeks orders negating district transgender restroom facility and other related policies.
The complaint was filed on behalf of parents and students identified as John and Jane Does and children, both boys and girls, it says they are in grades ranging from third through ninth in the Bethel district.
The complaint says it centers on the board of education’s change in January 2022 of rules for intimate facilities from providing restrooms shared only by persons of the same biological sex to allowing students to use the facilities of their preferred gender identity.
The complaint alleges the board received a request by a faculty proponent in September 2021 to consider changing the restroom policy and in January 2022 announced new rules effective the first of 2022.
The announcement, the complaint states, allegedly was done “with no public discussion, deliberation or voting of any kind to intimate facility use being based on gender identity instead of biological sex.” The decision was made in violation of Ohio’s public meetings laws, they contend.
The policy, the complaint alleges, has caused issues for Muslim, Christian and other students, some who “hold their urine and avoid using the restroom at school if at all possible. If the students have to use the restroom it causes them anxiety and emotional distress because of Bethel’s policies.”
The complaint alleges the district is providing an opportunity of communal intimate facilities to transgender students but not for others.
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