ACLU: Sumner County Schools’ policy on bathrooms violates Constitution

Sumner County Schools
(Photo: WKRN)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee (ACLU-TN) says the bathroom policy within Sumner County Schools regarding transgender students violates the U.S. Constitution and federal anti-discrimination law.

The ACLU filed a complaint Thursday with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, saying the school district prohibits transgender students from using the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity.

The complaint was filed on behalf of a transgender high school freshman and her parents.

According to the ACLU, current district policy says the student is only allowed to use the faculty or the special needs bathroom.

– Sumner County Schools || Procedural Guidance Regarding Transgender Students –

The complaint says to avoid the stigma of using segregated restrooms, the student either tries to avoid using the restroom at all during the school day, or uses the girls’ restroom under fear of punishment by school officials.

There have been no reported incidents or problems from her using the proper restroom for her gender identity and no proof offered that any student has been harmed by her use of the girls’ restroom.

The complaint seeks the Department of Education’s assistance in enforcing federal law regarding the treatment of transgender students in public schools.

“No student should have to endure the stigma and marginalization of being segregated from the rest of the student body,” said ACLU-TN cooperating attorney Abby Rubenfeld.

“These kinds of blanket bans prevent transgender students from being treated fairly and equally at school. This policy is not only misguided, it’s a direct violation of Title IX and the Fourteenth Amendment,” Rubenfeld continued.

The ALCU says after trying unsuccessfully to work out reasonable accommodations with the school system for the entire 2015-2016 academic year, the student’s family sought legal assistance.

The complaint filed with the Office for Civil Rights calls for the district to be required to permit the student to use the girls’ restrooms and locker rooms at school, and to create a new policy ensuring that transgender students be treated the same as other students.

News 2 reached out to Sumner County Schools for a response. Below is their full statement:

The Sumner County Board of Education strives to provide all students with a quality education in a safe environment that is respectful to each of its 29,000 students. In this spirit, the school system expressly prohibits harassment and bullying of any student, including transgender students, and also devised a set of guidelines to meet the needs of transgender students while respecting the interests of all students. Under these guidelines, school administrators meet with transgender students’ parents to discuss the student’s needs. Our schools allow transgender students to follow the dress code corresponding to their gender identity, address them with the name and pronoun corresponding to their gender identity, and provide alternative physical-education options.

While transgender students must use the general restroom and locker room facilities corresponding to their birth gender, our schools provide alternative, private, unisex restrooms and changing facilities. We are aware of and will take under consideration the guidelines recently issued by the Justice and Education Departments. We believe that our guidelines, after due consideration, comply with federal law and meet the needs of transgender students while simultaneously maintaining the privacy rights of all students, regardless of gender or gender identity.

Congressman Diane Black also responded to the ACLU complaint. She said, in full:

Washington liberals’ campaign to compromise the safety and privacy of our students in the name of hyper-political correctness has now hit our backyard. These days, a complaint by the ACLU is a sure sign you’ve done something right. From the organization’s work to silence expressions of faith in our schools to their attacks on laudable organizations like Boy Scouts of America, they’ve lost all credibility with Tennesseans and they know it. Nonetheless, if the ACLU wants to pick a fight with our Sumner County educators, then they’ll have to pick a fight with me as well. I sent my children to Sumner County public schools. I know our Director of Schools and the Chairman of the Board of Education. I have the utmost confidence in their ability to offer accommodations for transgender students while maintaining reasonable policies that protect the privacy and security of the student population as a whole and I stand with them in the face of this blatantly political complaint.

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