Earlier this year, the issue of Doe v. Boyertown Area School District was brought to the United States Supreme Court. The case was in regard to a Pennsylvania school district supporting transgender students’ equal access to facilities, including restrooms and locker rooms. The United States Supreme Court declined to review the decision issued by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.
Doe v. Boyertown Area School District
The case of Doe v. Boyertown Area School District was brought about by district students through their parents and guardians. They alleged that the District’s Equal Access Policy violated their constitutional right to bodily privacy and subjected them to sexual harassment in violation of protections given under Title IX. This includes the right to avoid the “disclosure of personal matters,” including “privacy interest in his or her partially clothed body.” The students and their parents believed this was violated because the Policy “permitted them to be viewed by the members of the opposite sex while partially clothed.”
When reading the case, it is important to understand the District’s decision to adopt the Equal Access Policy. In the 2016/2017 school year, the Boyertown District began its compliance with the Policy in order to allow students equal access to all facilities. This was allowed by the Obama Administration under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, a federal law that prohibited discrimination based on a person’s sex. This was later rescinded by the Trump Administration in 2017.
The Third Circuit Decision
The three-judge panel of the Third Circuit reached its decision regarding the case, ruling that the district court was correct in not stopping the District’s Equal Access Policy. This decision was made based on the belief that the students of the District were unlikely to succeed in arguing that the policy violated their constitutional right to bodily privacy or their right to be free from sex discrimination and sexual harassment.
The Third Circuit stated that this constitutional right is “not absolute” and is weighed against other “important competing governmental interests. It was agreed that “even if the District’s Equal Access Policy implicated the plaintiff’s constitutional right to privacy, the state had a compelling interest in not discriminating against transgender students.”
The decision of the Supreme Court to not hear Doe v. Boyertown Area School District does not have precedential value. Though it is seen as important, as it shows that Title IX or the constitutional right to bodily privacy can prohibit any school district in the nation from supporting the right of transgender students to access these facilities.
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