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Supreme Court Silence Heralds Transgender Rights Win in Oregon

— December 9, 2020

The Supreme Court’s decision not to hear a case appeal means Oregon’s Dallas School District No. 2 can continue to accommodate transgender students.

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to take up a lawsuit against an Oregon public school’s policy allowing transgender children to use bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their gender identity.

According to Reuters, the justices’ decision leaves in place a lower court ruling which had dismissed a lawsuit filed against Dallas School District No. 2, located in Oregon’s western half. The plaintiffs had, initially, argued that the district’s progressive policies infringed upon other students’ constitutional rights to privacy and religious freedom. They had also suggested that an expansion of transgender rights could violate federal and state statutes prohibiting sex discrimination in education.

In the lower court ruling, Judge Wallace A. Tashima of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had said Dallas Schools was not violating anyone’s constitutional rights.

LGBTQ flag. Image via Quote Catalog, Flickr, CC BY 2.0, no changes.

“A policy that allows transgender students to use school bathroom and locker facilities that match their self-identified gender in the same manner that cisgender students utilize those facilities does not infringe Fourteenth Amendment privacy or parental rights or First Amendment free exercise rights, nor does it create actionable sex harassment under Title IX,” Tashima wrote.

NBC News notes that the lawsuit was filed by a small group of West Oregon parents, who took to calling themselves “Parents for Privacy.”

In 2017, the families sued after Dallas School District changed its policies to accommodate a transgender male student, allowing him to use the boys’ locker facilities and restrooms.

Attorneys for the parents claimed, in their lawsuit, that cisgender students would be embarrassed to use the bathroom or change around someone who had not been born biologically male.

However, the lawsuit never took off. In 2018, a lower court refused to block Dallas School District’s transgender policy. And earlier this year, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed its outcome.

While the Supreme Court did not remark upon the particulars of the case, its refusal to hear an appeal effectively leaves the decision with the 9th Circuit Court.

Transgender rights advocates and LGBTQ activists have praised the justices’ decision to let Tashima’s ruling stand.

Mara Keisling, executive director for the National Center for Transgender Equality, told NBC News that the justices’ decision sets an important standard.

“Today’s decision is excellent news for transgender students,” Keisling said. “Trans students deserve an educational environment that is safe, supportive, and free from discrimination. The school district’s actions to create that environment have been vindicated.”

The justices are expected to take up another, Virginia-based case relating to transgender rights and discrimination later this year.


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