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Applaud Boyertown School District for supporting a transgender student

A small school district outside Philadelphia refuses to be intimidated by an anti-LGBT group that has filed suit against it.

At a Seattle high school, officials designated a gender neutral bathroom.  In Berks County, a lawsuit alleges a male student's “bodily privacy” was violated when he saw a transgender student undressing in the locker room.
At a Seattle high school, officials designated a gender neutral bathroom. In Berks County, a lawsuit alleges a male student's “bodily privacy” was violated when he saw a transgender student undressing in the locker room.Read moreElaine Thompson

The Boyertown Area School District, northwest of Philadelphia straddling Montgomery and Berks Counties, deserves applause for not flinching at a lawsuit that would prevent a transgender student from using the boy's locker room to change for gym class.

Similar suits have been filed by anti-LGBT groups across the country. A federal judge has ruled three transgender girls can use the bathrooms of their choice in the Pine-Richland District near Pittsburgh. But controversy has led the Egg Harbor Township, N.J., District to abandon a policy of tolerance.

The Boyertown suit was filed in March by the Alliance Defending Freedom on behalf of an anonymous boy who said he felt sexually harassed by having to share a locker room with the transgender student. The Boyertown school board responded that it was committed to treating all students "with the same degree of respect, dignity, and sensitivity."

Melissa DeStefano told the Reading Eagle that her son, Aidan DeStefano, a senior at Boyertown High, first discussed his gender identity with her when he was in the seventh grade. Aidan told the newspaper there had been some incidents, but he was accepted by most people, especially fellow students. After his transition surgery, he decided to begin this school year as just another guy.

Unfortunately, disputes concerning transgender students have been amplified by forces waging fierce proxy battles. That includes the Arizona-based ADF, which the Southern Poverty Law Center lists as a hate group. The ADF has sued or threatened to sue more than a dozen school districts. It also fought to retain Texas laws criminalizing gay sex.

The ADF has been lobbying state legislators to pass so-called bathroom bills, which require students to use restrooms based on their gender at birth. Bills have been introduced in about 20 states. But North Carolina recently rewrote its bathroom law after businesses boycotted the state and the NCAA decided not to hold its basketball championship there.

Countering the ADF's efforts is the American Civil Liberties Union, which recently joined forces with the Boyertown school board. The ACLU argues that civil rights laws cover sexual identity, a position upheld by a federal appeals court that recently ruled that the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination against LGBT employees in the workplace.

The fates of transgender students will also be up to the courts, but it may take a while. The Supreme Court in March postponed a hearing on a Virginia case in which a school board prevented a transgender student from using the boy's restroom. The delay came after President Trump reversed an executive order by former President Barack Obama that allowed transgender students to choose any bathroom.

The courts should keep in mind the Boyertown board's goal to treat all children with respect. Meanwhile, school districts faced with finding the best way to assimilate transgender students must weigh what would cause the most harm. Does one child's discomfort at undressing in the same locker room as someone who is transgender trump the humiliation the other child must endure when told that his mere presence is repugnant?