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The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Pennsylvania have filed a legal motion asking to intervene in a lawsuit challenging a Pennsylvania school district’s policy allowing transgender students to use locker rooms that comport with their gender identity.
The ACLU is seeking to defend the pro-transgender policy on behalf of Aidan DeStefano, a transgender boy who attends Boyertown Area Senior High, and the Pennsylvania Youth Congress, a coalition of LGBTQ youth organizations, including the Boyertown Gay-Straight Alliance, whose transgender members would be harmed if the district’s policy were reversed.
“Transgender students just want what everyone else wants, to be accepted for who we are,” DeStefano said in a statement. “Reversing the practices that have allowed me and other trans kids to thrive at school would be devastating.”
Reggie Shuford, the executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, praised the Boyertown Area School District for adopting and sticking by the current locker room policy, noting that it helps foster a safe and positive learning environment for transgender students.
The initial lawsuit in the case, known as Doe v. Boyertown Area School District, was brought by a pair of conservative organizations, Alliance Defending Freedom and Independence Law Center, on behalf of a cisgender student known as “Joel Doe,” who was made uncomfortable after finding he had to share a locker room with a transgender boy, whom he considers to be a girl. Doe complained to school administration officials, who told him to “tolerate” the situation and try to make it as “natural” as he can.
In the lawsuit, Doe’s lawyers argue that by forcing him to share facilities with transgender boys, the district’s policy violates Doe’s right to bodily privacy under the Constitution, state law requiring separate facilities for students of different biological sexes, and constitutes “sexual harassment” under Title IX.
The ACLU rejects Doe’s claims of injury, noting that the school can and should have offered alternative arrangements or extra privacy protections, such as a curtain, to cisgender students like Doe who feel uncomfortable around LGBTQ people. But they maintain that the court should uphold the district’s current policy.
“It’s important that trans students are given the opportunity to defend themselves against these shameful attempts to isolate and stigmatize them,” Leslie Cooper, a senior staff attorney at the ACLU’s LGBT & HIV Project, said in a statement. “Schools can and should provide extra privacy protections or private restroom or changing areas for any student who requests it. But no student has a right to demand that transgender students be segregated from their peers.”
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