Plaintiffs in Boyertown trans restroom policy case withdraw litigation, ending years-long legal battle

Photo by Kelly Burkhardt

A nearly three-year legal battle in the Boyertown case that gained national attention after a group of students sued the school district for allowing trans students to use restrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity concluded this morning when plaintiffs voluntarily withdrew the litigation from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

As a result, the case will close and previous federal court rulings in favor of the Boyertown Area School District — backed by the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Pennsylvania, legal firm Cozen O’Connor and Pennsylvania Youth Congress — will stand, Jason Goodman, executive director of the Pennsylvania Youth Congress, told PGN. 

“This major court win is a historic moment for transgender rights in Pennsylvania,” Goodman said. “We hope school districts throughout our commonwealth take note: the courts back you supporting trans student inclusion. The Boyertown Area School District has done the right thing and now can be celebrated for doing so. The federal courts that evaluated the Boyertown case understand that safeguarding inclusive practices is critically important.”

In 2016, the Boyertown Area School District started allowing trans students to use restrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender and giving all students the option of using private facilities. A group of non-trans students sued the locality, claiming the Constitution mandates that trans people be excluded from bathroom and locker room facilities that non-trans people also use. The complainants further argued that having trans students in these facilities could constitute sexual harassment.

The ACLU and the ACLU of Pennsylvania filed a motion in April 2017 intervening on behalf of the Pennsylvania Youth Congress, relying on the witness testimony of Area Senior High fourth-year student Aidan DeStefano, who is trans. In August 2017, a federal district court in Easton, Pennsylvania upheld the school district’s trans-inclusive policies. 

On May 24, 2018, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit heard oral arguments on the dispute and sided with the school district. The judges penned an opinion supporting the lower court’s ruling the following month. 

This year in May, the United States Supreme Court declined to hear the case, ultimately allowing Boyertown’s trans-inclusive policies to live on. Plaintiffs Joel Doe, Jack Jones, Macy Roe and Mary Smith then filed a motion to stay on June 17 with the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. 

But on Sept. 5, the court denied the motion, citing the pending resolution of three cases involving how federal discrimination protections extend to LGBTQ people: Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia; Altitude Express, Inc. v. Zarda; and R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The U.S. Supreme Court will consider these cases Oct. 8. 

“We look forward to taking the next steps toward full inclusion and dignity for transgender students throughout Pennsylvania,” Goodman added. 


More to come as story develops.