Metro Weekly

Pittsburgh school’s anti-transgender bathroom policy challenged in court

Three transgender seniors want to continue using bathrooms that match their gender identity

Photo: Pine-Richland School District.

Photo: Pine-Richland School District.

Lambda Legal has asked a federal court to halt an anti-transgender bathroom policy implemented by a suburban Pittsburgh school district.

motion was filed on behalf of three transgender students — Juliet Evancho, Elissa Ridenour, and A.S. — all of whom are seniors at Pine-Richland High School in Gibsonia, Pa. They wish to continue using the bathrooms that match their gender identities, as they had done, without incident, prior to Sept. 12 of this year when the new policy came into force.

For years, the Pine-Richland School District had permitted transgender students to use facilities consistent with their gender identity. But in March, the superintendent sent an email to parents explaining that there were transgender children in the district, and that, consistent with the U.S. Department of Education’s interpretation of Title IX, transgender students were being allowed to access restrooms and other facilities consistent with their gender identity.

Almost immediately, a group of parents, known as Students and Parents for Privacy — with the help of Alliance Defending Freedom — demanded that the school board rescind its longstanding policy.

Under pressure from the conservative activists, the Pine-Richland School District passed a new policy banning Juliet, Elissa, and A.S. from their respective restrooms.

The district said they would either have to use the bathroom of their biological sex at birth or a single-stall bathroom if they wished to use any facilities at school.

Lawyers argue that the new policy is not only unconstitutional, but sends a message that transgender students are undeserving of the same privacy, respect or protections afforded to their cisgender peers.

“For the past month, our clients Juliet, Elissa and A.S. have felt singled out and marginalized by the discriminatory restroom policy imposed by the school board. This isn’t the result of teachers or their fellow students, who overwhelmingly support them. It’s the result of a sudden, fear-based and unconstitutional policy change, in response to pressure from outside anti-LGBT groups and individuals,” Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, a staff attorney with Lambda Legal, said in a statement.

“Senior year only happens once in your lifetime — these students can’t get this time back,” argued Gonzalez-Pagan. “The rule imposed on them by the school board is demeaning, degrading and unnecessary — not to mention against the law.”

If the injunction is granted, the school district will be barred from enforcing the new policy, and the students will be allowed to use the bathrooms that match their gender identities while the lawsuit moves through the judicial system. 

“Everything was fine at school. I was accepted for who I am, before some parents decided to make a fuss,” Ridenour said in a statement. “We just need it to go back to the way it was, when there was no problem.”


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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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