A Florida School Board Limits Public Bathrooms to Birth Gender

Apr 27, 2016

OCALA, FL — Effective this morning, the Marion County School Board affirmed the constitutional expectation of its student’s privacy by requiring students to use the bathrooms and other facilities based on biological sex, as requested by Liberty Counsel. This 4-1 vote happened late last night. It will allow students of only one gender, that of their birth, into a bathroom or locker room. The vote overturned a previous interpretation, unilaterally imposed by the district’s superintendent, which allowed students to choose what bathroom they wanted based on subjective “gender identity.” Under today’s policy, any student who identifies as “transgender” may request an appropriate alternate facility if uncomfortable using the facility corresponding to the student’s biological sex.

Liberty Counsel represented Harrell "Hal" Phillips before the Marion County School Board in support of this commonsense bathroom policy. Phillips and his son are devout Christians who believe strongly in both biblical modesty and constitutional privacy. Two months ago, the district superintendent unilaterally began allowing transgender students to pick whichever bathroom they wanted. Last week, Phillips’ son was extremely upset when he encountered a female student in the boy’s bathroom at his high school, Vanguard High School in Ocala, FL. This was a place where he has a reasonable expectation that he will not encounter the opposite sex. This deeply violated his religious beliefs of personal modesty and his constitutional rights to privacy. Liberty Counsel also offered to defend the school board for free if the board is sued for adopting this policy.

The U.S. Constitution establishes a protection of the privacy of Americans, and our public school students do not give that up when they enter a public school bathroom. In a separate circuit, the Fourth Circuit Court sent back to the lower court a similar case regarding a Virginia student, but the court did not rule on the constitutional expectation of privacy. This ongoing legal case is in a separate court district and is not binding on Florida schools.

"This policy protects the privacy rights and safety of all Marion County students. The four board members who voted to approve the policy should be commended for their common sense and courage in the face of threats and intimidation by the ACLU and its allies, who desire to impose radical 'gender theory' on schoolchildren." said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel.

Liberty Counsel is an international nonprofit, litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family since 1989, by providing pro bono assistance and representation on these and related topics.