Virginia School District faces suit

VIRGINIA — Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing a group of local students and parents have filed suit against the Virginia School District and two other entities for allegedly disregarding student privacy and safety.

An ADF news release states a new district policy recently opened its locker rooms, showers and restrooms to the opposite sex after two U.S. departments threatened removing federal education funding.

The complaint filed Wednesday “explains some of the real concerns of students and parents, such as when a biologically male student (Student X) who identifies as a female — and who is allowed to enter the girls’ locker room under the district’s policy — went on to dance in the locker room “in a sexually explicit manner — ‘twerking,’ ‘grinding’ and dancing like he was on a ‘stripper pole’ to songs with explicit lyrics, including ‘Milkshake’ by Kelis. On another occasion, a female student saw the male student lift his dress to reveal his underwear while ‘grinding’ to the music,” according to the ADF news release.

The district did not notify parents or students of the new policy, the lawsuit states.

“Young female students, initially unaware that the district was allowing biologically male students to use the girls’ locker room, were shocked and alarmed when a male student began using the locker room and now have no assurance that they may use girls-only facilities without a male entering the once-private locker rooms and restrooms,’’ the ADF states.

Virginia Superintendent Noel Schmidt could not comment on the suit and referred all questions to the district’s attorney, John Colosimo. Colosimo did not return a phone call seeking comment.

The policy change led to “daily persistent feelings of anxiety, stress, humiliation, embarrassment, intimidation, fear, apprehension, distress, violation of privacy and insecurity at school’’ for the girl plaintiffs, the lawsuit states.

After the policy was changed earlier this year, concerned students and parents formed the group Privacy Matters to challenge the guidelines and the school district’s policy, ADF states. Privacy Matters is composed of 10 families of district students and parents who are directly impacted.

“School policies should promote the rights and safety of every student, but that’s not what Virginia Public Schools is doing—and it’s certainly not what the departments of Education and Justice are doing,” said ADF Senior Counsel Gary McCaleb. “No child should be forced into an intimate setting, like a locker room, with someone of the opposite sex. Telling girls that their privacy and modesty don’t merit a private and secure changing area is an attack on women. The school district should rescind its privacy-violating policies, and the court should order the DOE and DOJ (both named in the suit) to stop bullying school districts with falsehoods about what federal law requires.”

ADF Legal Counsel Doug Wardlow added, “Federal bureaucrats cannot simply write letters to redefine the meaning of a federal law to serve their own political ends. The Department of Education went beyond what it is legally and constitutionally allowed to do, and the DOJ is out of bounds in enforcing the DOE’s false interpretation of the law. In fact, several federal courts have already rejected the DOE’s interpretation of Title IX.”

Contrary to what the DOE and DOJ are saying, Title IX’s existing regulations specifically state that a school receiving federal funds can “provide separate toilet, locker room, and shower facilities on the basis of sex” without putting that funding at risk, the release states.

The lawsuit asks the court to halt the school district’s policy that opens up showers and changing areas to the opposite sex and invalidate the DOE’s rule that illegitimately redefines “sex” in Title IX.

The district was reacting to federal guidelines that stated “a school must treat a student’s gender identity as the student’s sex for purposes of Title IX and its implementing regulations,’’ the complaint states.

The Privacy Matters group is now front and center in the case, Privacy Matters v. United States Department of Education, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Minnesota.

After Virginia adopted its policy based on federal rule, “adolescent girls, in the midst of disrobing within their private locker room, found an adolescent male in their midst. The risk of such encounters, and the encounters themselves, merit prompt judicial intervention to strike the defendants’ rules and policies and protect plaintiffs’ bodily privacy,’’ the complaint states.

In addition, the plaintiffs are seeking a trial by jury on all counts and issues that are triable.

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Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.

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