ACLU of Ohio moves to intervene in federal lawsuit over Bethel Schools transgender bathroom policy

MIAMI COUNTY — The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio has gotten involved in a federal lawsuit centered around Bethel Local Schools in Miami County. Parents whose kids go to Bethel Local Schools filed a federal lawsuit against the district and it all has to do with restrooms.

In September 2021, a parent brought it to the school board’s attention that transgender students should be able to use the bathroom they identify with. Then in January 2022, the board made an announcement that transgender students could use the bathroom of their choice, without having a public discussion.

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Parents said they were blindsided by the board’s change which happened “in secret” and filed a federal lawsuit.

The main argument is that the change limits “free exercise of religion,” according to court documents.

News Center 7′s Kayla McDermott attempted to talk to parents at the school about the issue, but no one wanted to speak about the complaint.

McDermott spoke with the ACLU of Ohio Tuesday, who said bringing in religion is where a line needs to be drawn.

“The religious beliefs of one student entitles them to essentially infringe on the rights of another student,” David Carey, Deputy Legal Director at the ACLU of Ohio, said. “And so that’s why we felt the need to get involved.”

In the lawsuit filed by parents, claims were made regarding students holding “their urine and [avoiding] using the restroom at school if at all possible” out of fear of seeing the opposite gender.

“Students can choose to use single occupancy restrooms,” Carey said.

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Single stall restrooms have been made available for everyone in addition to the communal restrooms, but Carey said its different for a transgender student. He claimed forcing them to use the single restrooms can be isolating.

“That can lead to a lot of emotional and psychological difficulty in a vulnerable period of anyone’s life,” Carey said.

With the ACLU getting involved, Carey said their goal is to the decision in place and protect any current or future transgender students in the school system.

“The outcome that we’re hoping for is an equitable accommodation that serves the needs of everyone. And as far as we can tell, that’s what they school is providing,” he said.

News Center 7 reached out to the district for comment on Monday. The superintendent said that “Upon the advice of legal counsel, the district will not comment on pending litigation.”

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