Ohio school district: Stop feds from depriving special needs, underprivileged children

ADF attorneys available to media following hearing Tuesday
Monday, September 19, 2016

 
WHO: Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys
WHAT: Available for media interviews following hearing in Board of Education of the Highland Local School District v. United States Department of Education
WHEN: Tuesday, Sept. 20, immediately following hearing, which begins at 2 p.m. EDT
WHERE: U.S. Courthouse, 85 Marconi Blvd., Courtroom 1, Room 331, Columbus

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys will be available for media interviews following a hearing Tuesday regarding an Ohio school district’s request for a federal court to stop the U.S. departments of Education and Justice from making good on threats to yank federal funding for special needs and underprivileged children while the district’s lawsuit against those agencies moves forward. The two departments are making the funding dependent on the district opening up overnight accommodations, locker rooms, showers, and restrooms to be shared by members of both sexes.

ADF attorneys representing the Board of Education of the Highland Local School District filed suit against the two departments in June. The agencies have threatened funding to the district—situated in Ohio’s Morrow, Knox, and Delaware counties—because officials there have not allowed a student who professes a gender that conflicts with that student’s biological sex to access intimate facilities like overnight accommodations, locker rooms, showers, and restrooms designated for and used by students of the opposite sex.

“Punishing a school district merely for doing its duty to protect the privacy and dignity of all of its students isn’t only unjust, it also makes no sense whatsoever,” said ADF Legal Counsel Doug Wardlow, who will argue before the court on behalf of the school district Tuesday. “The federal government has no business holding funding reserved for special needs and underprivileged children hostage simply to strong-arm the district into complying with an unrelated and lawless demand—the demand to give students access to places like locker rooms and showers that are reserved for students of the opposite sex. The court should stop the Department of Education from revoking the district’s funding or otherwise punishing the district while its lawsuit proceeds.”

The district has allowed the student to use single-user restrooms and has consented to nearly all of the requests from the student’s guardian to respect that student’s professed gender and gender expression. But the guardian nonetheless filed a complaint with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights because the district will not provide the child with access to intimate facilities designated for the opposite sex. Acting on the complaint, OCR has demanded that the district allow such access despite the district’s obligation to protect the dignity interests and privacy rights of all its students.

The DOE bases its threats against the school district on its inaccurate interpretation of Title IX, a 1972 federal law that prohibits schools from discriminating “on the basis of sex.” Contrary to the agency’s current directives, 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 ADF lawsuit explains that the DOE and DOJ are both unlawfully redefining the word “sex” in Title IX, something that only Congress can alter, and are unlawfully forcing their directives on public schools across the nation. No federal law requires schools to allow boys into girls’ locker rooms or girls into boys’ locker rooms, and numerous courts have rejected the agencies’ interpretation of Title IX.

As the ADF brief in support of a motion for preliminary injunction states, “Highland faces an impossible choice: capitulate to [DOE’s and DOJ’s] demands and sacrifice the dignity and privacy rights of its students; or protect those rights and watch Defendants strip away more than a million dollars each year in federal funding devoted to special-education programs, lunches for underprivileged children, and educational advancement. Faced with imminent and irreparable injury no matter what it does, Highland asks this Court to preliminarily enjoin Defendants from enforcing their unlawful executive-branch attempt to rewrite federal law and, in so doing, ensure that Highland will not need to cut programs that serve underprivileged children and students struggling to learn.”

Andrew J. Burton is also serving as counsel for the school district in the lawsuit, Board of Education of the Highland Local School District v. United States Department of Education, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Eastern Division. ADF attorneys have filed two other lawsuits, one in Illinois and one in Minnesota, against the DOE and DOJ over their attempt to rewrite Title IX.

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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