PJI Takes a Stand for Student Privacy Rights in Transgender Bathroom Case
Sutherlin, OR–Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) is taking a stand for student privacy rights in public schools by suing a small-town school district for letting a girl use the boys’ bathroom at the local high school.
On May 21, PJI sued the Sutherlin School District (SSD), its superintendent, Terry Prestianni, and Sutherlin High School principal Justin Huntley in the Oregon Circuit Court for Douglas County on behalf of T.B., a sophomore at Sutherlin High. (For his protection, T.B. is identified both here and in the lawsuit exclusively by his initials.) In January, a girl who self-identifies as a “transgender boy” entered a boys’ bathroom while T.B. was relieving himself at the urinal. The transgendered student entered the boys’ restroom even though Sutherlin High had made single-stalled restrooms available to her and the nearest girls’ restroom was completely empty. When Sutherlin High’s assistant principal asked her why she used the boys’ restroom, she responded simply, “Because I can.”
Soon thereafter, Prestianni issued a memo to parents and guardians of SSD students stating that the district would do nothing to prevent this student or others like her from using bathrooms designated for the opposite sex in the future. Prestianni claimed that Oregon state law requires SSD to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms of their choice. However, upon further research, PJI discovered that Oregon law requires no such thing—in fact, Oregon law recognizes that inpiduals have a legally protected privacy interest even in commonly shared bathrooms, and that interest protects males from having females see their private parts without their consent.
The girl’s presence in the boys’ bathroom caused T.B. to feel tremendous anxiety. PJI is thus seeking both declaratory and injunctive relief that prohibit SSD and its officials, school administrators, and other employees from allowing such an intrusion ever again.
“This case isn’t about prejudice toward transgender people,” said Brad Dacus, PJI President. “It’s about privacy and personal dignity for all. It’s completely understandable that kids would feel uncomfortable having to undress, shower, or use the toilet or urinal around people of the opposite sex, and schools shouldn’t force them to do so.
“Certain parts of the body are called ‘private parts’ for a reason, and kids should be able to keep them private to the greatest extent possible to preserve their mental and emotional safety. PJI is determined to keep fighting on this issue until what was once common sense for human dignity and privacy prevails.”
In view of the recent requests like this one coming from Oregon, PJI will open an office in the state’s capital in early summer of this year.