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'Fight for Bodily Privacy Far From Over': Supreme Court Declines Transgender Locker Room Case

05-28-2019
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The US Supreme Court declined to hear a case Tuesday concerning a Pennsylvania school district's policy that allows transgender students to use locker rooms and restrooms matching their gender identity, disregarding other students' bodily privacy rights.

The school had made the policy without informing students or parents of the policy change.

Alexis Lightcap was one of the students who challenged the policy. "One day when I was in school, I walked into the bathroom and immediately when you walk in there's a mirror there. And I saw a reflection of a man. My body went into immediate shock."

She says she told school officials what happened only to discover that her voice "didn't matter."

Now the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) reports the Supreme Court has refused to hear from several students who were challenging the school district's policy. They had filed the lawsuit against the Boyertown Area School District for making the decision, claiming it violated their constitutional right to privacy.

The students argued the policy violated the 14th Amendment and a federal law known as Title IX that prohibits sex discrimination in education, saying the school ignored the privacy rights of a vast majority of students just to placate a few other students.  

According to the ADF, the school district secretly implemented the policy during the 2016-17 school year. Some male students learned about it only because they were undressing in their locker room and discovered that a female student was changing clothes with them. Embarrassed and confused, the students sought help from school officials, who told them they should just "tolerate it" and "make it as natural as possible." One of those male students left the school entirely as a result.

When cases are appealed to the Supreme Court, four justices must decide if the court will hear a case.

The ADF says it's disappointing news that the court refused to hear the case, but the conversation on student privacy is far from over. 

"Students struggling with their beliefs about gender need compassionate support, but sound reasons based on common sense have always existed for schools to separate male and female teenagers in showers, restrooms, and locker rooms," said ADF Senior Counsel and Vice President of Appellate Advocacy John Bursch in a press release. 

"No student's recognized right to bodily privacy should be made contingent on what other students believe about their own gender. Because the 3rd Circuit's decision made a mess of bodily privacy and Title IX principles, we believe the Supreme Court should have reviewed it. But we hope the court will take up a similar case in the future to bring much-needed clarity to how the lower courts should handle violations of well-established student privacy rights," Bursch said.

As CBN News reported, the US 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the Boyertown Area School District last June, reaching a decision in about 15 minutes after hearing arguments in the case.

Still, the ADF is hopeful the Supreme Court will one day take a look at the case again. 

"These types of school policies have serious privacy implications. That's why we hope the Supreme Court will eventually weigh in to protect students' constitutional right to bodily privacy," said ADF Legal Counsel Christiana Holcomb. "All schools, including Boyertown Area School District, should be providing compassionate support for those dealing with gender dysphoria, but they should do so in ways that protect the privacy of all students." 

Watch Alexis Lightcap's story about fighting for privacy below:

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