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Students Sue Idaho Officials To Protect Transgender Youth

Above Photo: Jeff Chiu / AP File Photo.

Students in the Boise School District have filed a federal lawsuit against Idaho school officials to keep them from enforcing a new law meant to prevent transgender students from using school restrooms that correspond with their gender identity.

Signed into law by Idaho Gov. Brad Little on March 22, Senate Bill 1100 requires that public schools maintain two separate multi-occupancy restrooms, showers, changing facilities and overnight accommodations for students based on their sex assigned at birth. The law took effect July 1.

According to the law, “no person shall enter a multi-occupancy restroom or changing facility that is designated for one sex unless such a person is a member of that sex.”

Drafted by the Idaho Family Policy Center, a conservative Christian policy and research group, the law also allows students to sue their school for $5,000 if they encounter a student using a restroom that doesn’t align with their sex assigned at birth.

Plaintiffs in Idaho restroom lawsuit are suing state officials, Boise School District

Lambda Legal, Munger Tolles & Olson and Alturas Law Group, filed the lawsuit in federal court Thursday on behalf of Boise High School’s Sexuality and Gender Alliance, and Rebecca Roe, a rising seventh-grade transgender student who is using anonymity to protect her identity.

The plaintiffs are suing State Superintendent of Education Debbie Critchfield, the Idaho State Board of Education and the Boise School District under the claim that the law violates the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 by singling out transgender youth for discriminatory treatment.

Idaho State Board of Education spokesperson Mike Keckler told the Idaho Capital Sun that the board does not comment on pending litigation. The Boise School District could not be reached for comment.

“There is no reason to keep me and my transgender classmates from continuing to use the same school restrooms as our peers, which school policy has allowed us to do for years,” Boise High School student and gender alliance club president Atlas Jones said in a press release. “It would be humiliating, distracting, and exhausting to try to make it through the school day without having proper access to bathrooms.”

Before the law took effect, many Idaho schools adopted policies to allow transgender students to use facilities that matched with their gender identity.

Many of those policies were based on a model policy developed by the Idaho School Boards Association in 2015 meant to foster a school environment that is “safe and free of discrimination for all students, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.”

With the lawsuit, the plaintiffs are seeking preliminary and permanent injunctive relief, declaratory relief, as well as nominal damages to stop the law from being enforced as the school year approaches.

According to the lawsuit, the plaintiffs are hoping to protect transgender people across the state, including themselves, from the “devastating impact of Senate Bill 1100.”

Access to restrooms are important part of gender dysphoria treatment, lawsuit argues

According to the lawsuit filed in federal court, the law deprives transgender students of equal access to facilities.

The lawsuit also argues that transgender students, like the plaintiff, Rebecca Roe, put their health at risk to avoid using the restroom at school.

Roe is a 12-year-old transgender girl who has attended school in the Boise School District since she was in kindergarten.

According to the lawsuit, Roe’s parents became concerned about her mental health when she was in fourth grade because she showed signs of depression and fell behind in school. The summer after fourth grade, she expressed to her parents that she did not identify as a boy during a conversation about pride month for LGBTQ+ people.

Roe’s parents took her to see a therapist where she expressed the same gender identity concerns that she had previously shared with her parents, the lawsuit said. During spring break of 2021, her parents and therapist agreed to give Roe the opportunity to express herself by using feminine clothing, pronouns and a different name.

After socially transitioning, Roe also began using the women’s restrooms.

“When Rebecca is in public, she is generally perceived by others as female,” the lawsuit said. “Thus, if she were to use the restroom designated for males, it would appear to others that a girl was using the men’s restroom, something far more disruptive to social expectations than her use of the women’s restroom.”

Prior to using the women’s restroom, Roe would use the nurse’s restroom rather than the boys’ restroom at school. At the same time, Roe said in the lawsuit that she did not feel comfortable using the nurse’s restroom because it felt stigmatizing and isolating to use in comparison to her female peers, who were not limited to using only that single-stall facility.

The nurse’s restroom was also in a less accessible location than the restrooms used by Roe’s female classmates, so she began avoiding using the restroom at school entirely.

According to the lawsuit, Roe said she limited her fluid intake and would “hold it” at school to avoid using the restroom, creating a physical and mental distraction while she was in class waiting for school to end so she could use the restroom at home.

Roe has not used a restroom designated for males in public since fifth grade, according to the lawsuit, and having access to the girls’ restroom is an important aspect of the treatment for her gender dysphoria.

“Excluding transgender youth from the facilities aligned with their gender identity can force them to come out to others every time they use … causing transgender youth to disclose their transgender status involuntarily in situations where they would otherwise keep that information private,” the lawsuit said. “Such forcible outing will subject these youth to an increased risk of harassment and even bodily harm in violation of their basic right to privacy.”

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