Lawsuit Puts District in the Spotlight on Transgender Issue

A lawsuit has put BASH in the national spotlight regarding the transgender bathroom issue.

The family of a BASH student filed a lawsuit Monday against the Boyertown Area School District, claiming their son was made uncomfortable by a transgender student changing in the boy’s locker room and finding fault with the way the administration handled the situation.

The suit — filed in Philadelphia Federal Court and stemming from an event that occurred in late October 2016 — took the administration by surprise. Along with the suit, the district received a Demand Letter asking for a response by April 4th.

“The District, which only learned of the lawsuit and Demand Letter after the plaintiff’s attorneys held a news conference, contests the claims and will appropriately respond and defend its actions that we believe were consistent and compliant with the law,” BASD Superintendent Richard Faidley said in a letter emailed to the BASH community on Wednesday afternoon.

The lawsuit also took students by surprise — and has everyone talking. The news is all over social media, and some students even have been contacted by local and national media outlets.

One junior student said she and a friend were stopped by a reporter Wednesday while out walking. “They interviewed him for a half hour,” she said.

The Alliance Defending Freedom, a nonprofit organization that “advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith” and is representing the plaintiff, said in a statement that the district is being sued for sexual harassment and violation of his personal privacy.

The group said the school district didn’t give any notice to students or parents that they would allow students to use restrooms or locker rooms of the gender they identify with.

However, Superintendent Dr. Faidley said in his statement that the district “offered the student-plaintiff reasonable and appropriate alternatives when he voiced opposition to changing in a designated male locker room being used by a transgender student.”

He also said the school district’s current policy simply upholds the law currently in place.

“The BASD is firmly committed through our words and actions to treating every student, and member of our community with respect, dignity, and sensitivity in accordance with all applicable laws. … we were following the law of the land,” Dr. Faidley said.

In October when the incident happened, the district was abiding by a federal law that stemmed from an executive order from President Barack Obama saying that a federal law known as Title IX protects the right of transgender students to use restrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identities.

Since that time, President Donald Trump has rescinded the protections and said it’s up to states to establish their own policies.

Even before the lawsuit, the transgender issue had been a topic of discussion among students and staff at BASH. At least a half dozen students this school year have identified as the opposite sex and officially changed their names with the school.

One student who changed his name at the beginning of the school year said he believes students should be allowed to use the bathroom and locker room of the sex they identify with.

“We are under enough fire as it is for people just not understanding or accepting us,” he said. “We should be accepted as the gender we identify as regardless.”

Other students believe that bathrooms should still be based on physical sex.

“Unless they have undergone the legal and surgical aspects of becoming a transgender, they should not be allowed to go in the opposite sex’s locker rooms,” a senior said.

“They can institute gender-neutral places if needed.”

Despite where they stand on the issue, many students say the issue is something that should be debated because it is so new and so complicated.