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Third Circuit Affirms Denial of Injunction Blocking Transgender Bathroom Policy

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the denial of a preliminary injunction that would prohibit a school district from continuing its practice of allowing transgender students to use the bathroom and locker rooms of the sex by which they identify. Doe by & through Doe v. Boyertown Area Sch. Dist., No. 17-3113, 2018 WL 2355999, at *1 (3d Cir. May 24, 2018). The claim was brought by parents of several cisgender students who claimed that such policy of the Boyertown Area School District violated their Fourteenth Amendment right to privacy, their right to access to educational opportunities, programs, and benefits, and their Pennsylvania common law right to privacy preventing intrusion while using bathrooms and locker rooms. Doe by & through Doe v. Boyertown Area Sch. Dist., 276 F. Supp. 3d 324 (E.D. Pa. 2017), aff’d, No. 17-3113, 2018 WL 2355999 (3d Cir. May 24, 2018). The policy had been implemented since the beginning of the 2016-17 academic year, the plaintiffs sought the school district return to the prior policy requiring students to use any private facilities associated with their biological sex assigned at birth.

After reviewing the testimony of the students whose parents brought the complaint, testimony from a transgender student at the Boyertown Area Senior High School, and testimony from Dr. Scott Leibowitz, an expert in gender dysphoria and gender identity issues in children and adolescents, the trial court denied the motion for preliminary injunction. The court concluded that the plaintiff students “did not have a constitutional right not to share restrooms or locker rooms with transgender students whose sex assigned at birth is different than theirs.” Much of the emphasis by the court was predicated on the fact that the plaintiffs, if they were uncomfortable sharing private facilities under the policy, could have used private stalls or an alternative facility like the nurse’s office.

The plaintiffs failed to meet the “particularly heavy burden” of showing they were entitled to the preliminary injunction as they did not seek a return to the status quo but a change in a policy that stood for a year.  Further the plaintiffs had not sufficiently shown that they were likely to suffer “irreparable injury” if the injunction was not issued as the policy had been around for almost a year when they filed their complaint. The Third Circuit affirmed the denial of the preliminary injunction “for the reasons that the Court explained in its exceptionally well reasoned Opinion”. Doe by & through Doe v. Boyertown Area Sch. Dist., No. 17-3113, 2018 WL 2355999, at *1 (3d Cir. May 24, 2018).

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