A high school junior is suing his Boyertown, Pa., school district after administrators told him he could either “tolerate” having a biological female share his locker room or withdraw and be homeschooled.
The lawsuit filed March 21 in federal court calls on the district to rescind its secretly implemented policy granting transgender students access to the private facilities of their choice.
Without notifying parents or students, administrators at Boyertown Area School District initiated the policy midway through last semester. The complainant, cited as Joel Doe in court documents, knew nothing about the plan when he began changing clothes for PE class in October. Undressed to his underwear, Doe realized a female student—wearing only shorts and a bra—was in the locker room with him.
“Humiliated” and “embarrassed,” he and several other classmates notified Assistant Principal Wayne Foley after class, according to the lawsuit. Foley allegedly told the male students to “tolerate” the situation and make changing in front of a female as “natural” as possible.
“There is a level of egregious, callous disregard for the students,” said Randy Wenger, the Alliance Defending Freedom-affiliated attorney representing the unidentified male student and his parents.
Doe’s parents, listed as John and Jane Doe, filed the lawsuit on behalf of their minor child. Foley, Principal Brett Cooper, and Superintendent Richard Faidley are co-defendants in the case. The district has until April 4 to respond.
“We are committed and confident that working together we can reach a satisfactory resolution that is consistent with our mission ‘to enable all students to succeed in a changing world,’” Faidley said in a press release issued today.
Faidley reasserted the district’s commitment to the transgender policy, which he claims complies with “the law of the land,” and said the district is seeking guidance from the State Department of Education, the administration, and school board.
In another recent Pennsylvania case, three male students who identify as female sued a school district for access to the girls’ restrooms. The judge ordered the district to allow open access to school restrooms while the lawsuit proceeds.
Wenger said that case is still pending, not precedent-setting, and not applicable to Boyertown, which involves locker rooms, not restrooms.
The Boyertown plaintiffs asked administrators to rescind their policy because it violated their son’s privacy and Pennsylvania state law requiring sex-segregated facilities on all school campuses. According to the lawsuit, Cooper said “he would not do anything because Joel Doe can simply change in the nurse’s office from now on if he does not want to change around people of the opposite sex.”
Wenger did not know whether the transgender student had been offered the same accommodation in order to avoid any conflict associated with using the boys’ locker room. But transgender advocates have refused similar suggestions in other cases, calling them discriminatory and a violation of the transgender students’ rights.
Following the locker room incident, Doe avoided using the boys’ restrooms all day for fear of encountering the female student. He also took a failing grade in PE class for each day he refused to dress out. Changing clothes in the nurse’s office did not remedy the situation because he still had to enter the boys’ locker room to store his clothes.
“Now he and the other boys are left without a boy’s room,” Wenger said.
Following multiple meetings with district officials, the Doe family was told “that the school was no longer going to discuss this issue with them or any parents,” according to the lawsuit. And Faidley allegedly told the parents that if using the nurse’s bathroom was not acceptable to their son, “he could just withdraw from school and be homeschooled.”
And that, Wenger claims, is a violation of Title IX. Typically used to defend women’s educational pursuits in publicly funded schools, the federal statute also protects teenage boys pushed from their designated sex-specific private spaces by a policy accommodating a student of the opposite sex. Last year, the Obama administration directed schools to interpret protections in Title IX to include gender identity. The Trump administration rescinded that directive last month.
Even without federal support, Wenger said local school districts continue to do “the wrong thing” by forcing students into untenable situations that push moral and social boundaries surrounding intimacy and personal privacy.
“The adults are putting these kids in a place where standing up to this is awkward,” he said, noting his client and the lawsuit are the talk of the school. “It’s hard enough to do school. Who wants to be that person everybody is talking about?”
— by Bonnie Pritchett