School continues unwritten policy, told students to ‘tolerate’ undressing with members of the opposite sex
PHILADELPHIA – Additional students have joined a federal lawsuit against the Boyertown Area School District (BASD) for intentionally violating their fundamental right to bodily privacy.
Without any notice to students or parents, BASD opened its schools’ sex-specific restrooms and locker rooms to students of the opposite sex. Four high-school students are now suing the district for their unlawful and harmful actions.
Both male and female students in BASD have had their privacy violated. Two of the plaintiffs were in the boys’ locker room in a state of undress, when they discovered a member of the opposite sex in the locker room with them. One of them saw a biological female wearing nothing above her waist other than a bra. He was told by the principal to “tolerate” it and make it “as natural as possible.”
One plaintiff discovered a boy in the girls’ bathroom. She now feels she cannot return to school for her senior year because school officials are permitting boys into girls’ locker rooms and bathrooms. Another plaintiff now refrains from using facilities as much as she can.
“We can do better for our children because civility and respect should never require the giving up of personal privacy rights,” said Randall Wenger, Chief Counsel for the Independence Law Center (ILC).
No parent was made aware of this policy. None of the students involved in this case were given any other options when they or their parents initially contacted the school. They have suffered violations of their bodily privacy by the people who are supposed to be protecting them.
“It’s a school’s duty to protect and respect the bodily privacy and dignity of all students. In this case, school officials are clearly ignoring that duty,” added Wenger.
As the amended complaint states, because of the district’s policy and actions of authorizing boys and girls to have unrestricted access to enter and use private facilities of the opposite sex, Plaintiffs do not feel secure in the locker rooms or restrooms that are properly set aside for the exclusive use of members of one sex to protect their privacy from exposure to members of the opposite sex.
Once the school’s actions became known to parents and students as a result of this lawsuit in March, six of the nine school board members voted to ignore the privacy rights of their students and to continue this practice of permitting people to pick locker rooms and restrooms based on their beliefs about “gender.”
“A woman’s right to bodily privacy does not spring into existence, or cease to exist, depending on what a man believes about the nature of his own internal sense of ‘gender identity,’” said Jeremy Samek, ILC Senior Counsel. “A woman’s bodily privacy is hers and hers alone, and a man’s bodily privacy is his and his alone, and they don’t disappear or come into existence based on the beliefs of a person of the opposite sex.”
The lawsuit, Doe v. Boyertown Area School District, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, claims sexual harassment under Title IX, a federal law; violation of the fundamental right to bodily privacy under the U.S. Constitution; and violation of a state privacy law. Attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom and the Independence Law Center are co-counsel in the lawsuit and recently filed to add these additional plaintiffs to the court case.
“Respect means protecting the personal privacy of each student, not taking it away,” added Samek. “It’s regrettable that still more students must ask a federal judge to ensure that their well-established privacy rights aren’t tossed aside.”
For a copy of the amended complaint, click here.
Independence Law Center is a Pennsylvania-based pro-bono legal organization dedicated to advancing civil rights.