This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
An 11th-grader is suing his Pennsylvania school district after it allowed a transgender student to change in the boys’ locker room. It is the first case in Pennsylvania where the student filing the complaint is not himself transgender, but rather is responding to the presence of a transgender student in a sex-segregated space, according to the plaintiff’s attorneys.
The plaintiff, who chose to remain anonymous, is alleging that the school district violated his constitutional right to privacy and broke sexual harassment law enshrined in Title IX when it permitted a transgender male to use the boys’ locker room.
"Students from all walks of life find it deeply humiliating and offensive to be forced to share these facilities with members of the opposite sex," said Kellie Fiedorik, an attorney with the conservative group Alliance Defending Freedom and co-counsel for the plaintiff. "These voices must be heard. And today we stand for them."
The dispute arose late last year at Boyertown Area Senior High School near Pottstown, Pennsylvania.
In the fall, the plaintiff discovered a student who was born female but identifies as male using the boys’ locker room before and after gym class, according to attorneys. The plaintiff complained to school administrators who told the 11th-grader that there "was nothing they could do about the situation," according to Randall Wenger chief counsel with the Independence Law Center in Harrisburg and another attorney representing the plaintiff.
"To tell someone that they need to share the locker room with somebody of the opposite sex and make it natural amounts to sexual harassment," Wenger said.
Officials from Boyertown Area School District — which straddles Montgomery and Berks counties — sent out a brief statement saying the district was "reviewing this matter with our legal counsel and has no further comment at this time."
Attorneys for the plaintiff said they filed a federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania Tuesday morning.
The case joins a growing mountain of litigation related to the rights of transgender students in public schools, an area of acute legal uncertainty.