A school district in Ohio adopted a policy that allowed transgender students to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity. A group of middle school parents and students opposed to the policy filed a federal lawsuit in 2022. Their primary argument was that the policy infringed on their free exercise of religion, but other arguments were also put forth, such as an alleged Fourteenth Amendment violation for interfering with the parents’ right to raise their children as they see fit.
The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio dismissed the lawsuit on August 7, 2023. The court found that the religious infringement claims failed because the school district’s policy was neutral and did not impose a substantial burden on their religious practice. The court found that there was no allegation that the school district adopted this policy to suppress religious beliefs. The court also noted that the policy was adopted to prevent what the school district believed to be discrimination on the basis of sex, not to suppress religious beliefs.
As for the Fourteenth Amendment claim, the Court found that parents have a right to control where their children go to school but they do not have a right to dictate how a public school educates their children or how it operates its facilities. In other words, prescribing the use of student bathrooms is a school decision to make, not a parent decision to make.
What does this mean for your district?
This decision means that the school district’s policy of allowing transgender students to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity can stay in place. The plaintiffs have the right to file an appeal. Ennis Britton will continue to monitor this case as it progresses further on appeal.