9th Circuit Court Dismisses Lawsuit Attacking Transgender Students’ Rights in Oregon

Affiliate: ACLU of Oregon
February 12, 2020 2:00 pm

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PORTLAND, Ore. – The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals today issued an opinion affirming the district court’s dismissal of a lawsuit that sought to challenge policies that protect the legal rights of transgender students in public schools in Dallas, Ore. The court found that Dallas High School’s practice of allowing a transgender boy to use the boys’ restrooms and locker rooms does not violate the rights of cisgender students or parents.

The ACLU, ACLU of Oregon, and Lane Powell represented Basic Rights Oregon as an intervenor in the case to defend the Dallas School District’s practice of permitting a transgender boy to use the same restrooms and locker rooms as other boys.

Lawyers, advocates, parents, and students today celebrated the ruling as a victory for the rights of transgender students:

“I’m relieved, but not surprised, that the court did the right thing,” said Gabriel Arkles, senior staff attorney at the ACLU’s LGBT and HIV Project. “There is just no legal basis for what the other side wants: mandated discrimination against trans students. In a time when we see attacks on trans youth around the country, from here in Oregon to Connecticut and South Dakota, it’s more important than ever to work together to defend our communities.”

“The Dallas School District has done the right thing all along, following the law that allows transgender students the right to use the bathroom or locker room that most closely aligns with their gender identity. This simple act provides a more supportive and affirming learning environment,” said Nancy Haque, executive director of Basic Rights Oregon. “We’re thrilled that the court has yet again ruled with a clear message: Protect Trans Kids.”

“I’ve seen the positive impact when schools are affirming places for trans kids,” said Joy Wilson, a Portland mother of a transgender 11-year-old girl. “This decision is one more message to all the trans kids out there that we see you, we hear you, and we support you.”

“We are proud of the Court’s clear decision today,” said Darren Sands, partner at Lane Powell. “Transgender students deserve to know that the legal system will protect them when their rights are under attack. The ACLU is on the frontline of this defense on a daily basis and it is an honor to stand with them and Basic Rights Oregon.”

Tyler Warner, a transgender high school student from Sutherlin, Oregon, who was the target of a lawsuit by the same group, made the three-hour trip to Portland with his mother to watch the court arguments last summer. After the judges adjourned, he shared his story outside of the courthouse. “I want every trans kid in Oregon to know that they have rights. Being segregated into a single-user bathroom isn’t ok.”

Claims similar to the ones the plaintiffs brought in this case have been rejected by courts around the country. Courts have repeatedly concluded that federal civil rights laws protect transgender students against discrimination, including in the context of restroom and locker room use. In May 2019, the Supreme Court declined to review a similar case, allowing policies supporting transgender students to continue.

The Ninth Circuit Court noted in their opinion that numerous groups filed friend-of-the-court briefs in support of the rights of transgender students including transgender students and school administrators from around the country, the State of Oregon, the National Education Association, PFLAG, the Anti-Defamation League, the American Academy of Pediatrics, GLSEN, and the National Women’s Law Center.

Today’s decision is online at http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2020/02/12/18-35708.pdf

More information about the lawsuit, including case filings, can be found here: https://www.aclu.org/cases/parents-privacy-v-dallas-school-district-no-2.

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