ADF: No law requires Tennessee schools to open restrooms to opposite sex

ADF sends letter to state school districts, encouraging them to respect students’ privacy
Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Attorney sound bite:  Matt Sharp

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Alliance Defending Freedom issued letters to all Tennessee school districts Monday to encourage them to reject policies that would open restrooms and locker rooms to opposite-sex students. An unofficial policy at Nashville Public Schools prompted ADF to send the letters, which provide a suggested policy that addresses any concerns about discrimination without allowing the sharing of restrooms and changing areas.

The letters explain that no federal law requires public schools to allow boys into girls’ restrooms or girls into boys’ restrooms. In fact, as the letters note, schools and school districts could be exposing themselves to legal liability for violating students’ right to bodily privacy.

“Protecting students from inappropriate exposure to members of the opposite sex is not only legal, it’s an important duty of officials who watch over our children,” said ADF Legal Counsel Matt Sharp. “Letting boys into girls’ restrooms and changing areas, for example, is an invasion of privacy and a threat to student safety.”

The ADF letters cite pertinent legal precedent, including court rulings that support the ability of public schools to limit restrooms and locker rooms to members of the same sex for privacy and safety reasons without violating Title IX, a federal law concerning sex discrimination in public school programs and activities.

“Allowing students to use opposite-sex restrooms and locker rooms would seriously endanger students’ privacy and safety, undermine parental authority, violate religious students’ free exercise rights, and severely impair an environment conducive to learning…,” the ADF letters explain. “ADF’s policy allows schools to accommodate students with unique privacy needs, including transgender students, while also protecting other students’ privacy and free exercise rights. It also serves to better insulate school districts from legal liability.”

“If a district adopts our model policy and it is challenged in court, Alliance Defending Freedom will review the facts and, if appropriate, offer to defend that district free of charge,” the letter to the school districts states.

“Schools can accommodate the small percentage of students that have different preferences without compromising the rights and completely understandable needs of the vast majority of children and their parents,” added ADF Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “No child should be forced into an intimate setting – like a bathroom or a locker room – with a person of the opposite sex.”
  • Pronunciation guide: Tedesco (Tuh-DESS’-koh)

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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