By Rena Abdusalam
COLUMBUS, OH – In support of a transgender student, a motion to intervene in a federal lawsuit has been filed here this week by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Ohio, and the law firm Benesch Friedlander Coplan & Aronoff LLP.
The ACLU is supporting the Bethel Local School District’s choice to permit transgender students to use the communal restroom that aligns with the gender with which they identify.
But the district is now being challenged by a lawsuit by parents who claim the district is infringing on their ability to exercise their religious beliefs, and violates Title 9 and Ohio law.
The ACLU has asked the court to reject the parents’ motion for preliminary injunction, which would prevent transgender students from accessing restrooms that align with the gender with which they identify
Despite it being unacknowledged, Bethel Local School District provided all students the option to use individual-occupancy restrooms, the parents’ legal action would refuse transgender students to use the same arrangement.
Instead, the lawsuit intends to block transgender students from using communal restrooms that match their gender identity.
The ACLU argues that the school’s arrangement is appropriate and fitting. The organization declares that it should not be interrupted 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.
Carey added, “One student’s religious beliefs do not provide a basis to exclude another student from full participation in the school environment.”
Malita Picasso, staff attorney at the ACLU LGBTQ & HIV Project, said all students have the right to a safe, inclusive learning environment, including transgender students.
“Allowing a girl who is transgender to use the same restroom facilities as her fellow female classmates is not discriminatory, nor does it harm any other students. While all students should be allowed to choose to use a single-occupancy restroom, no student should be singled out and required to use a separate restroom facility solely because she is transgender,” noted Picasso.
“We are fighting to ensure that every student, transgender or not, has an equal chance to thrive,” noted Michael Meuti, Benesch Partner and Chair of its Appellate Practice Group.
Meuti added, “At its core, this is an effort to affirm the dignity of all people and ensure their equal treatment as our Constitution requires. All individuals are entitled to equal protection under the law, regardless of their gender identity.”
“Living out this nation’s creed requires standing up for the rights of marginalized communities and viewing America’s potential through their eyes. Transgender individuals are no exception,” David Hopkins, Benesch Associate Attorney argued.
The ACLU said the general public has a powerful interest in the advancement of policies that protect transgender students and produce an inclusive school environment.
The organization added that by forbidding transgender girls from accessing the girls’ restrooms, social stigma and the refusal to equal education that is given to all students would be exposed to them.