Proposed policies violate children’s privacy, invite lawsuits in Minn., Wis., RI

ADF letters outline dangers of proposed ‘bathroom bills’
Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Attorney sound bites:  Rory Gray  |  Jeremy Tedesco

BROOKLYN CENTER, Minn., SPARTA, Wis., and WESTERLY, R.I. – Alliance Defending Freedom has delivered letters to the Minnesota State High School League, Wisconsin’s Sparta Area School District, and Rhode Island’s Westerly Public Schools that ask them to reject new rules that would require schools to allow children to use bathrooms and changing areas reserved for the opposite sex. ADF offers a suggested policy for school districts that addresses the concerns which prompted the problematic policies but do not require the sharing of bathrooms and locker rooms.

The ADF letters explain that, contrary to what some mistakenly believe, no federal law requires public schools to allow boys into girls’ restrooms or girls into boys’ restrooms. In fact, state actors, such as the authorities to whom ADF sent letters, could be exposing themselves to legal liability for violating students’ privacy rights and placing children in potentially unsafe conditions.

“Schools have a duty to protect the privacy, safety, and dignity of all students,” said ADF Legal Counsel Rory Gray. “Any safety and privacy policy should respect the needs of all children because every child matters. No policy should be tailored to a few students at the expense of every other student.”

“Schools can accommodate a small number of students that have different needs without compromising the rights of other 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 child of the opposite sex. Our model policy provides a solution without exposing schools to liability and children to threats to their privacy and safety.”

The ADF letters explain that no Minnesota, Wisconsin, Rhode Island, or federal law requires schools to open bathrooms and changing areas to opposite-sex students and that providing such access endangers children’s privacy and violates the rights of both students and parents. The Minnesota letter additionally explains that athletic associations that have private, religious schools as members have no authority to violate the constitutionally protected religious freedom of those schools by demanding they adhere to such policies.

All three letters cite pertinent legal precedent, including court rulings that support the right of public schools to restrict restrooms to members of the same sex for safety reasons without violating Title IX.

An open session of the Westerly Public Schools committee responsible for deliberating the proposed policy for that district will take place Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Westerly Town Hall.

  • 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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