PITTSBURGH, Pa. — Three students in the Pittsburgh area who identify as transgender have sued their school district over its new resolution that students should use the restroom that correlates with their biological gender.
Jacob Evancho, who goes by the name Juliet, Erik Ridenour, who goes by the name Elissa, and a third student who has only identified themselves as A.S., have sued the Pine-Richland School District for changing its rules regarding restroom use.
Evancho, who is the brother of youth singing sensation Jackie Evancho, began identifying as a girl last year. He had previously appeared on his sister’s album.
“Juliet sang the male part, which caused her distress,” the legal challenge outlines. “She considered this to be a huge step backward because everyone who listened to the song heard a boy, but Juliet knew she was a girl.”
Last month, the Pine-Richland School District overturned its longstanding practice of allowing students to use the restroom that corresponds with their “gender identity.”
“This resolution agreed to by a majority of the board of directors of the Pine-Richland School District indicates our support to return to the long-standing practice of providing sex-specific facility usage,” the resolution, passed 5-4, read. “All students will have the choice of using either the facilities that correspond to their biological sex or unisex facilities. This practice will remain in place until such time that a policy may be developed and approved.”
Students could also use the unisex restrooms or the restroom in the nurse’s office.
On Thursday, Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit on behalf of the three students, stating that the move violates Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, as well as the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.
“The three brave students we represent are simply looking for equal educational opportunities and for the district to return to a practice that served everyone well,” attorney Omar Gonzalez-Pagan said during a press conference, according to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. “They want to be able to graduate from Pine-Richland knowing the school recognized and respected who they are.
“Forcing them to use restrooms that do match their identity erases students’ gender identity, endangers the health and safety of transgender students and isolates them from the entire student body and at the same time violates their privacy,” he said.
The Pennsylvania Department of Education also told the outlet that it believes schools have to uphold the Obama administration’s recent guidelines on the matter.
“All schools in Pennsylvania that receive federal funding are expected to comply with the requirements as outlined by the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice,” said spokesperson Casey Smith. “The Wolf administration is committed to creating a culture of inclusiveness across the commonwealth. The governor will continue to work with the General Assembly to pass comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation that protects all Pennsylvanians.”
The Pine-Richland School District has declined to comment on pending litigation.
As previously reported, over 20 states have joined in lawsuits challenging the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice for requiring schools to accommodate students’ “gender identity” under threat of losing their federal funding.
“Neither the text nor the legislative history of Title IX supports an interpretation of the term ‘sex’ as meaning anything other than one’s sex as determined by anatomy and genetics,” one of the legal briefs read.