January 2018 Church & State - January 2018

Religious Right Group Drops Lawsuit Challenging Md. School District’s Transgender Policies

  Religious Right Group Drops Lawsuit Challenging Md. School District’s Transgender Policies

A lawsuit challenging a Maryland school district’s policies allowing transgender students to use rest­rooms that correspond with their gender identity has been dropped.

The suit, brought by an attorney affiliated with the Religious Right legal group Alliance Defending Freedom on behalf of an unidentified Frederick County woman and her teenage daughter, was withdrawn on Nov. 6 because the teen was stressed about the “potential humiliation” of being identified as the plaintiff, according to The Washington Post.

Frederick County’s policy was hailed as among the most progressive in Maryland after the school board approved it in June 2017. It makes bathrooms and locker rooms available to students according to their gender identity and provides alternatives for students who are uncomfortable. The policy also covers topics involving privacy, preferred names, dress codes for major events and participation in sports teams.

The lawsuit claimed the policy violated the girl’s right to bodily privacy and that she feared for her safety and felt humiliated to undress in front of “the opposite sex.”

Brad Young, president of the Frederick County Board of Education, told The Post the board is trying to balance the needs of all students, including the former plaintiff.

“We will do whatever we can to make all of our students feel welcome and safe and affirmed,” Young said.

He hailed the lawsuit’s dismissal, remarking, “We’re certainly happy to be out of litigation and be able to go back to what we are here for, which is focusing on educating our students.”

James van Kuilenburg, a 12th-grade transgender student who helped to lead students and other allies in advocating for the new policy, said he was happy the lawsuit didn’t doom the inclusive policy. The American Civil Liberties Union was representing van Kuilenburg in the now-withdrawn lawsuit.

“This policy is like a promise from the school system to protect every student, not just transgender students,” van Kuilenburg told The Post. “It gives all students the freedom to be themselves in school.”

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