Bethel school transgender policy target of new lawsuit, separate legal appeal

Two lawsuits involving the controversial Bethel Local Schools Board of Education decision allowing a transgender student to use the girls restroom/locker room at the school are back in the federal and Miami County courts.

A federal lawsuit filed by parents late last year challenging the district’s transgender restroom and related policies was dismissed in August by Judge Michael Newman in U.S. District Court for Southern Ohio.

The dismissal is being challenged in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati.

The lawsuit by parents and the America Legal First organization was filed against the board of education, its members Lydda Mansfield, Lori Sebastian, Natalie Donahue, Danny Elam Jr. and Jacob King, and current Superintendent Matthew Chrispin.

The complaint was filed in November 2022 on behalf of parents and students identified as John and Jane Does and children, both boys and girls, in grades 3-9 in the Bethel district.

The lawsuit targeted 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 civil lawsuit claimed the policy violated the students’ and parents’ constitutional rights. The American Civil Liberties Union joined the case in January.

In his decision, Newman wrote that “Although the parties, undoubtedly, seek to vindicate what they believe is the truth, the allegations in the complaint do not pass legal muster under the applicable methods of constitutional, statutory or precedential interpretation.”

The Bethel Local Schools Board of Education and Chrispin said the decision showed the district “acted neutrally towards all students.”

Second legal case

In Miami County Common Pleas Court, a lawsuit filed and then dismissed has been refiled. The case of State of Ohio, Bronwyn Croley in care of Curt Hartman, legal counsel, Cincinnati, names the board of education, its individual members and district Treasurer Tina Hageman.

The complaint alleges the board of education has illegally conducted part of its meetings in executive session. Among the claims is that the board discussed the transgender restroom policy in sessions that were improper.

This lawsuit asks the court for a declaratory judgment that the board violated the Ohio Open Meetings Act. It also is asked to invalidate action taken following those alleged improper discussions, including a January 2022 policy “whereby biological males are permitted to use the girl’s restrooms/locker rooms in the public schools of the Bethel Local School District.”

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