Metro Weekly

U.S. Supreme Court lets Oregon district’s transgender bathroom policy stand

Justices allow lower court rulings finding trans kids do not threaten privacy of cisgender peers to stand

oregon, supreme court, trans, transgender, bathroom
Photo: Nikolai Nolan, via Wikimedia

The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear a challenge to an Oregon school district’s transgender bathroom policy brought by a group of conservative parents.

On Monday, the court rejected an appeal by the group Parents for Privacy, which objected to Dallas School District No. 2’s policy allowing transgender students to use facilities, including restrooms and locker rooms, consistent with their gender identity.

The district initially adopted the policy in order to accommodate a transgender male student at Dallas High School.

In November 2017, Parents for Privacy sued the district, alleging that the policy violated their children’s right to bodily privacy and their First Amendment right to religious freedom, and created a hostile school environment by forcing them to share facilities with transgender students.

But U.S. Judge Marco Hernández dismissed that lawsuit, finding that schools must treat transgender students equally under the law, and cannot ban them from spaces based solely on their gender identity.

Hernández also found that no cisgender student was forcibly compelled to share spaces, as those who felt uncomfortable using the same facilities as transgender students were provided with the option of alternative accommodations that would grant them greater privacy.

Parents for Privacy appealed that decision, only to have it upheld by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

They then appealed to the Supreme Court, which has declined to weigh in on the larger issue of transgender restroom access at this time, instead allowing lower circuit courts to deal with challenges to similar policies on their own.

Mara Keisling, the executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, hailed the decision as “excellent news for transgender students.”

“The 9th Circuit Court, like so many other courts before it, has recognized the rights of transgender students,” Keisling said in a statement. “[This] decision means that [appeals] court’s decision stands and that trans students in Dallas, Oregon, can use the appropriate locker room and bathroom. The school district developed a thoughtful policy and it has been upheld by the courts.

See also: Appeals court: Gloucester County School Board discriminated against Gavin Grimm by barring him from boys’ restroom

“Trans students deserve an educational environment that is safe, supportive and free from discrimination,” Keisling continued. “The school district’s actions to create that environment have been vindicated.”

Chase Strangio, the deputy director for trans justice with the American Civil Liberties Union’s LGBT & HIV Project, issued a statement praising the high court’s decision to allow the policy to stand.

“The Supreme Court has once again said that transgender youth are not a threat to other students,” Strangio said. “As we look towards state legislative sessions that will likely continue the attacks on trans youth, the decision not to take this case is an important and powerful message to trans and nonbinary youth that they deserve to share space with and enjoy the benefits of school alongside their non-transgender peers.

“We will continue to fight in courts, in legislatures, and in our families and communities to ensure that all trans people feel safe and belong.”

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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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