In settlement, PA district to update policies, pay students

In settlement, PA district to update policies, pay students

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A Central Pennsylvania school district has agreed to pay nearly $150,000 to three transgender students and their attorneys who challenged their school’s policy on restroom use by trans students. 

The Pine-Richland School District, north of Pittsburgh, agreed last month to overturn its policy that barred trans students from using the facilities that corresponded to their gender identity. It will also add explicit LGBT protections in its nondiscrimination regulations.

The district operated under a trans-inclusive policy until last year, when it adopted a sex-segregated approach, prompting a lawsuit from trans students Juliet Evancho, Elissa Ridenour and a 17-year-old student identified in court filings as A.S. All three have since graduated.

”No one should have to go through what we went through and I’m so happy that transgender students at Pine-Richland High will no longer be discriminated against,” Ridenour said in a statement. “All of us had been using the restrooms that match who we are with no problems until some parents and outside groups complained. But, I’m glad the school district finally did the right thing.”

Earlier this year, a federal judge found that the students had a “reasonable likelihood of success” on their equal-protection claim, granting an injunction that allowed them to use the restroom in accordance with their gender identity as the case proceeded. 

Both sides agreed to settle the case July 17, after the school board voted 6-2 in favor of the proposal.

In addition to the policy changes, the district will pay the three students $20,000 each, as well as cover $75,000 worth of attorneys’ fees for the plaintiffs. The costs will be handled by the district’s insurance carrier.

The case was closely watched on a national level, especially after the Trump administration rescinded protections for trans students. 

“This is a victory for transgender students everywhere and sends a clear warning to school districts with anti-transgender bathroom policies,” said Lambda Legal staff attorney Omar Gonzalez-Pagan in a statement.

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