Court upholds Boyertown School District policy favorable to transgender students

Kristen Johanson
May 24, 2018 - 4:20 pm

Kristen Johanson-KYW Newsradio


PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) -- A Federal appeals court has upheld the Boyertown School District policy that allows transgender students to use the locker rooms or restrooms facilities that correspond to their gender identity. 

It took only about 15 minutes for the three-judge panel to rule after hearing arguments for more than an hour. Judge Theodore McKee said they wanted to make the decision before the high school's graduation.

"The court sent a strong message by making this decision in such a short amount of time," said attorney Ria Mar with the American Civil Liberities Union, who spoke to reporters moments after the opinion was handed down. "This is the first Federal court of appeals to recognize that the plantiff's arguments, the privacy arguments, are wholy unfounded."

A lower court ruled in favor of the district and its policy after a lawsuit, filed last year, that claimed the policy violated privacy rights, and caused irreparable harm.

"The bodily differences between men and women are the very reason we have seperate spaces," argued Randall Wenger with conservative faith-based group Alliance Defending Freedom. "Even though the decision was disappointing, we plan to continue this litigation in order to protect and vindicate the privacy rights of our clients."

Alexis Lightcap, who was part of the lawsuit against Boyertown, said, "It's common sense that boys shouldn't be in girls' locker rooms, restrooms and shower areas. Every student matters, and a school should put our privacy, dignity and safety first."

In a prepared statement, Lightcap recounted a story about being in a girl's lockerroom with a person who she thought to be male, and that she was scared of the situation and felt like she had no voice after telling a principal and teacher.

Student Aiden DeStefano
Kristen Johanson-KYW Newsradio

"When you go to school you are supposed to be happy," said Aidan Destefano, a transgender male who has graduated from Boyertown.  "When I was Boyertown, I used the boys' bathroom and was never questioned or anything."

Destefano said he was shocked to learn of the lawsuit, and has testified in court.

"Everybody has the right to use private facilities and to choose, because of their own beliefs about modesty or any other reason, ... not to change in front of other people," said Mar.  

"What's different about what the plantiffs are asking for is they are saying that transgender students should be required to use seperate faciliities apart from anyone else, not because of their own comfort, but because of someone else's belief that who they are -- that their very presence is unacceptable and unfit to be in the same place where everyone else changes, and that is discrimination," Mar said.

Attorneys for the Alliance Defending Freedom say they plan to appeal to be re-heard by a full panel of judges.