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SCOTUS Sides With Transgender Students Over Bathroom Use, Denies Review in Discrimination Case


The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday denied review in Doe v. Boyertown School District. As a result, the Third Circuit’s ruling – that students in a Pennsylvania school district will be allowed to use the bathroom or locker room aligned with their gender identity – will stand.

Joel Doe and three other students sued the Boyertown Area School District in March 2017, claiming that the district’s policy to allow transgender boys to use the same facilities that Doe uses is a violation of Doe’s privacy. The ACLU stepped in to defend the district’s policy, and to intervene on behalf of transgender student Aidan DeStefano and a coalition of LGBTQ youth leaders and youth organizations.

In July of 2018, the Third Circuit upheld the District Court’s ruling against Doe, finding that, “the presence of transgender students in the locker and restrooms is no more offensive to constitutional or Pennsylvania-law privacy interests than the presence of the other students who are not transgender.” In its decision, the court specifically recognized that, “Forcing transgender students to use bathrooms or locker rooms that do not match their gender identity is particularly harmful.” The Third Circuit systematically disassembled every argument made by the students, finding that they’d raised no plausible claim of either discrimination or a violation of constitutional rights.

In a petition in opposition to certiorari, the district not only argued that the law favored its policy, but also that the case was a poor choice for SCOTUS review. The case fails to present an appropriate fact scenario to test some of the legal claims, because the school in question is well-equipped with single-use bathrooms and private showers that would clearly mitigate any negative impact claimed by the plaintiffs. Further, the case is an appeal from a ruling on a preliminary injunction—and not from a ruling on the merits, and thus, would deny SCOTUS the chance to rule on the central issues involved with transgender bathroom use.

This likely won’t be the last we hear of the Supreme Court’s involvement with the question of school district regulations of gender-specific facilities; for now, though, Doe v. Boyerstown is a win for transgender rights.

[Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images]

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Elura is a columnist and trial analyst for Law & Crime. Elura is also a former civil prosecutor for NYC's Administration for Children's Services, the CEO of Lawyer Up, and the author of How To Talk To Your Lawyer and the Legalese-to-English series. Follow Elura on Twitter @elurananos