HHS to follow precedent on bathroom use
HONESDALE, PA — After a student at Honesdale High School filed a Department of Education complaint against Wayne Highlands School District last week, Superintendent Greg Frigoletto says he intends to follow a case ruling allowing students to use locker and bathrooms of their choice.
A 15-year-old student at the high school filed the complaint, saying she felt “violated” by seeing a student of the opposite sex changing in the women’s locker room early in the school year. The student appears unnamed in a video released by her attorney, Andrea Shaw. In the video, she says school officials told her to wait outside the locker room until the other student, who presumably identifies with a gender not related to their sex, was finished changing. The 12-page complaint, which has been filed to the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, alleges that the school has not issued a formal policy about the use of bathrooms or locker rooms and how it pertains to a person’s gender identity.
Shaw, who works for a Christian law firm in Carlisle, PA, has previously come to the school board about creating a formal policy for bathrooms and gender use. “Opening up restrooms and locker room facilities to members of the opposite sex is sexual harassment, and like many forms of sexual harassment, the girls in this school have little power over their situation,” Andrea Shaw said in a statement and video she released about the case.
Shaw said on Thursday that the creation of a gender-neutral bathroom and locker room space—provided that her client would not have to be the one to use it—would be acceptable, but said that has not been offered by the district.
Instead, Frigoletto plans to follow the ruling issue in the Joel Doe v. Boyertown Area School District case, which went before the U.S. Court of Appeals, Third Circuit, in Philadelphia last year. In that case, a group of students who are cisgender—meaning their sex at birth correlates with their gender identity—claimed that changing in a locker room with transgender students was a violation of Title IX and Pennsylvania tort law, which refers to acts that cause harm to others.
The circuit judge ruled in the school district’s favor, concluding that “the presence of transgender students in the locker and restrooms is no more offensive to constitutional or Pennsylvania-law privacy interests than the presence of the other students who are not transgender. Nor does their presence infringe on the plaintiffs’ rights under Title IX.”
In other words, the court found that transgender students using restrooms and bathrooms of their choice did no harm to other students.
There is no formal written policy on gender and bathroom use at Honesdale High School. Frigoletto declined to comment on how school administrators handled this specific situation earlier in the year.