An Ohio school district faces a lawsuit from Muslim and Christian parents after permitting students to use bathrooms according to their stated gender identity rather than their biological sex.

America First Legal filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday on behalf of the parents against Bethel Local School District, located in Tipp City north of Dayton. The lawsuit accuses the district of violating Title IX protections for students and violating parental rights.

Attorneys filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio. The Bethel School board adopted a new policy in January that allowed students to use bathroom facilities according to their gender identity. Prior to the policy change, transgender students predominately used a gender-neutral bathroom.

Since the school district has seen opposition to the policy grow since it was first implemented. Parents at a school board meeting in March said that their children felt uncomfortable using the bathroom at school and have resorted to waiting for  hours to avoid using the restroom at school if at all possible.

“The school has a duty and a responsibility to protect and make students safe and comfortable and these young girls are being told their safety and their comfort is not important,” Katherine Shutte who ran for Ohio State House of Representatives District 70 against incumbent Brian Lampton (R-Beavercreek) said.

The school district maintained its bathroom policy despite concerns from the parents.

“I’m asking the board to walk back this decision. Our children should not feel their privacy should be violated,” another parent said.

Concerned community members attempted to find solutions that would respect all members of the community, but the school board ignored their attempts.

In one circumstance, the lawsuit says a local group of Muslims donated money to the school district to build a gender-neutral bathroom next to the existing bathrooms so that transgender students could use that facility instead. The district went ahead and built the bathroom without informing the donors that they would not require transgender students to use it.

The interfaith group of parents says the district is breaching their right to exercise their religious beliefs and directing how they raise their children by compelling them to conform to the district’s policy favoring transgender students.

“The Board’s actions keep the community in the dark regarding its new rules and policies for intimate facilities by refusing to answer basic questions parents need to know to make decisions about their child’s education. The parental right to direct the education, safety, and upbringing of their children is the oldest fundamental right recognized by the Supreme Court. And the Board’s actions deny these parents the same,” the lawsuit says.

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) says that people have good reason to be afraid of these policies.

“People are afraid and for good reason, because they have had experiences where they were in places where they were vulnerable and someone hurt them. The presence of a male of any variety whether he’s someone who identifies as trans or not whether he has deviant motives or not is irrelevant to the reality that survivors of sexual trauma to just turn around and be exposed to that’s an instant trigger. Policies that open up bathrooms and locker rooms to members of the opposite sex send the message that privacy and safety do not matter,” ADF said.

The school district declined to comment on the pending litigation.

“Upon the advice of legal counsel, the district will not comment on pending litigation,” Bethel Local Schools Superintendent Matt Chrispin told The Ohio Star.

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Hannah Poling is a lead reporter at The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahPoling1. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “School Restroom” by Ben Schumin. CC BY-SA 2.0.