Transgender High School Grads Awarded $20K Each After Suing District Over Bathroom Policy

Gender Neutral Bathroom
The University of California, Irvine installed a gender-neutral bathroom amid the growing issue concerning the liberties of transgender students in U.S. schools. |

Three transgender teenagers have been awarded $20,000 each from their Pennsylvania school district as part of a legal settlement to a lawsuit challenging the school district over its bathroom and locker room policies.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Elissa Ridenour, Juliet Evancho and a third unidentified transgender student, all of whom have since graduated from Pine-Richland High School in Allegheny County, each received $20,000 from the Pine-Richland School District as a result of a lawsuit they filed last year.

Ridenour and Evancho are both male but identify as female, while the third student is female but identifies as a male. The defendants claim that they were prevented from accessing the bathrooms consistent with their gender identity.

The students sued the school district in federal court in response to a policy enacted by the school board last fall that required students to use bathrooms consistent with their birth sex or use unisex bathrooms. The board's decision came after parents voiced concerns about the school district's previous policy that allowed students who identify as transgender to enter any bathroom they wanted.

A settlement agreement was reached by both parties this summer and The Post-Gazette used the state's right-to-know law to access financial information regarding the settlement from the school district.

In addition to the settlement calling for the school district to pay a total of $60,000 to the three transgender graduates, it also called on the school to pay $75,000 to the students' lawyers.

"This is a victory for transgender students everywhere and sends a clear warning to school districts with anti-transgender bathroom policies," Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, a lawyer with the LGBT advocacy group Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, said in the statement.

The settlement comes as the school board voted in July to overturn its policy barring biologically male students from entering girls' bathrooms and locker rooms, and vice versa.

In February, a federal judge issued the students an injunction from the school district policy, allowing them to use any of the school's student facilities.

"As a result, any student across the district may access restrooms based upon his or her consistently and uniformly asserted gender identity. Any student may also access a single-user restroom," the school district said in a statement.

The Post-Gazette notes that the amount of damages the school district owes to the graduates and their attorneys is covered by insurance.

As The Washington Post reports, the lawsuit filed against Pine-Richland School District was just one of many lawsuits across the United States that have been filed by transgender students against schools and school districts over policies pertaining to bathrooms, locker rooms and showers.

As school districts across the nation have embraced the possibility of adopting transgender-affirming bathroom and locker room policies, many parents have voiced their disapproval with such policies and have argued that it infringes on the privacy rights of other students.

Earlier this week, it was reported that the parents of a 7-year-old transgender child in Minnesota had reached a settlement with a St. Paul charter school after they sued the school on the basis that it was violating a local ordinance barring discrimination on the basis of gender identity. The school was forced to pay the family $120,000.

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court sent a Virginia transgender high school student's lawsuit against their school district back to a lower court after the Trump administration rescinded an Obama-era guidance for public schools to give transgender students access to all bathrooms, locker rooms and showers regardless of their birth sex.

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