Metro Weekly

ACLU moves to dismiss lawsuit challenging Oregon school district’s pro-transgender policy

Lawsuit claims allowing transgender students in gender-specific spaces violates other students' civil rights

School Lockers, Photo: SickestFame / Flickr

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a motion asking to intervene in — and dismiss — a lawsuit that aims to dismantle a school district’s policy allowing transgender students to use locker rooms and restrooms that match their gender identity.

The underlying lawsuit, filed in November, seeks to overturn the Dallas School District’s decision to allow transgender student Elliot Yoder to use boys’ facilities. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of three current or former Dallas students, argues that allowing Yoder in male-only spaces violates the civil and privacy rights of non-transgender students, reports The Oregonian.

Herb Grey, an attorney for the plaintiffs, says boys using the locker room or restrooms feel embarrassed and ashamed to have to disrobe in the presence of another student who is biologically female.

On Tuesday, the ACLU and its Oregon affiliate filed the motions on behalf of Basic Rights Oregon, the state’s LGBTQ advocacy organization, arguing that the lawsuit is meritless, attempts to justify discrimination against transgender students, and should be dismissed.

Mat dos Santos, the legal director of the ACLU of Oregon, said the lawsuit “targets transgender youth for simply existing and seeking an education,” and rails against Obama-era guidance recommending — but not requiring — school districts to treat transgender students according to their gender identity.

The Trump administration has since rescinded that guidance, as it does not interpret Title IX’s prohibitions against sex discrimination as applicable to instances where a person is discriminated against because of their gender identity. Nonetheless, the plaintiffs name the U.S Department of Education and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos as defendants in the case. 

The lawsuit also names the Oregon Department of Education and Gov. Kate Brown (D) for pushing statewide guidance, similar in scope to the approach advocated by the Obama administration, on how best to accommodate transgender students in schools.

The lawsuit is one of several in recent years that have broached the issue of transgender students’ ability to access restrooms that match their gender identities, either challenging the existence or lack of transgender-affirming policies in school districts across the country. Most of those lawsuits, including cases in Ohio, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, have ruled in favor of transgender students.

Recently, the Department of Education, under DeVos, announced that the agency’s Civil Rights Division would no longer investigate claims of discrimination where a transgender student was denied access to the locker room or restroom opposite that of the gender that appears on their birth certificate.

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

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