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SCOTUS Lets Transgender Bathroom Ruling Stand

University students  studying in classroom.
By William Vogeler, Esq. | Last updated on

Transgender students in a Pennsylvania school district may continue to use boys or girls bathrooms, according to their gender identity.

That's the net effect of a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to review an opinion of the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals. In Doe v. Boyertown Area School District, the appeals court said transgender students can use bathrooms or locker rooms of their choice. It was a victory for transgender students in the school district, which serves about 2,000 high schoolers. However, the Supreme Court has yet to decide the transgender issue for all schools.

Right to Privacy

The case started when six former and current high school students sued over the Boyertown Area School District policy. The district allows transgender students to use locker rooms and bathrooms that correspond to their gender identity. The plaintiffs complained the policy violated their right to privacy and subjected them to sexual harassment. The legal battle spilled over into a national debate that included outgoing President Barack Obama and incoming President Donald Trump.

After taking office, Trump rescinded Obama's policy supporting the right of transgender students to use bathroom and locker room facilities of their choice. At the same time, Trump barred transgender people from serving in the military.

In the Boyertown district, three transgender students were allowed to use facilities designed to accommodate their gender identity. The district removed group showers in the locker rooms and replaced them with individual stalls. The district also added multi-user bathrooms with individual stalls. Judge Edward Smith dismissed the plaintiffs' complaint, saying they did not show how the policy violated their rights. The Third Circuit said his decision was "exceptionally well reasoned" and affirmed.

'Exceptionally Well Reasoned'

It was one of three high-profile cases in court that week involving transgender bathrooms. The Boyertown case was good news for an Oregon school district.

The Dallas School District there also allowed students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that fit their gender identity. Meanwhile in Montana, a judge heard arguments on a proposed ballot initiative that people only use public bathrooms and locker rooms corresponding to their sex on their birth certificate.

The legal battles are still making their way to the Supreme Court. But so far, the justices have not decided the issue of transgender rights to use bathrooms and lockers rooms in public facilities.

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