Parents file federal suit against Bethel schools over transgender restroom policy

A civil action filed in U.S. District Court for Southern Ohio by parents and the America First Legal organization against the Bethel Local Schools in Miami County seeks court orders negating district transgender restroom facility and other related policies.

The complaint was filed Nov. 22 by attorneys Joseph P. Ashbrook and Julie E. Byrne of Ashbrook Bryne Kresge LLC of Cincinnati and America First Legal of Washington, D.C.

The defendants include the Bethel Local School District Board of Education; members Lydda Mansfield, Lori Sebastian, Natalie Donahue, Danny Elam and Jacob King; and current superintendent Matthew Chrispin.

The complaint was filed on behalf of parents and students identified as John and Jane Does and children, both boys and girls, it says 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 person 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, “blindsided " those filing the legal action because it was 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.

“Under its interpretation of Title IX, the board is providing communal intimate facilities for transgender students in accordance with their believed core identity while denying the Muslim and Christian families the communal intimate facilities in accordance with their believed core identity,” the complaint states. “The board cannot deny this educational opportunity to these families without violating basic principles of equal protection.”

The families claim that a number of questions have been raised by the board’s decisions but not answered by the board. Among those questions listed were restroom use such as a safety plan to monitor restrooms, how the district is addressing promotion of LGBTQ+ beliefs among students and adult and student use of restrooms at sport events.

Because of alleged actions, the complaint asks the court to order the board of education to comply with the Ohio Open Meetings Act and to invalidate the change in the restroom policy. A finding that the district has violated the parents and students right and award monetary damages.

Jacob Watson, the school district’s spokesman, said it would not comment because of the pending litigation.

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