Judge shuts down parents’ attempt to ban trans students from Ohio school bathrooms

A person holds up a trans flag, both of which are bathed in an orange glow.

A federal court judge has ruled that parents in Ohio don’t have the right to challenge a trans-inclusive school bathroom policy.

A case brought by parents and students in the Bethel Local School District (BLSD) in November sought to prohibit trans and non-binary students in the region from using toilets and other facilities consistent with their gender identity.

But, in a ruling issued on Monday (7 August), judge Michael Newman decreed that the accusations brought by the group did not “pass legal muster” to warrant further consideration.

“Not every contentious debate concerning matters of public importance presents a cognisable federal lawsuit,” Newman wrote in his ruling opinion.

During a school board meeting in January 2022, BLSD announced it had implemented policies allowing transgender students to use communal toilets consistent with their gender identity.

Several months later, a group of parents filed a legal challenge, arguing that their parental rights were being infringed upon by not having a public meeting to discuss the matter.

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They further argued that a previous policy, which had no protections for trans students, did not violate Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which states that no person in the US shall exclude or discriminate against students on the basis of sex.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio argued that the plaintiffs lacked standing for the Title IX claim and that citing parental rights did not immediately require the school to adhere to the group’s demands.

Dismissing the case, Newman wrote that parents do not have a “constitutional right” to revoke school policies on toilet usage.

ACLU Ohio deputy legal director, David Carey, said the ruling reaffirmed that the constitution is not a vehicle to “compel discrimination.”

He explained: “Nothing in the constitutional guarantees of parenting rights, equal protection or free exercise of religion, mandates that transgender students be excluded from gender-appropriate communal restrooms on the basis of their classmates’ beliefs and values.

“For public schools to function, one student’s or family’s religious beliefs cannot provide a basis to exclude another student from full participation in the school environment.”

In its legal intervention arguments, the ACLU wrote that it believed the public has a “strong interest” in advancing policies that affirmatively protect transgender students and create inclusive school environments.

The LGBTQ & HIV Project staff attorney at the ACLU, Malita Picasso, said the court’s decision made it “resoundingly clear” that the rights of trans students are “not in conflict” with the rights of their peers.

“No student should have to fear discriminatory treatment every morning they walk into school, and this ruling brings us closer to the day no transgender student has to,” she added.