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The Equal Protection Clause is fully applicable to a public school district established and maintained under the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection Clause provides that no State may deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. U.S. Const. amend. XIV, § 1. This broad principle, however, must coexist with the practical necessity that most legislation classifies for one purpose or another, with resulting disadvantage to various groups or persons. As a result, the U.S. Supreme Court has attempted to reconcile the principle with reality by prescribing different levels of scrutiny depending on whether a law targets a suspect class. Laws that do not target a suspect class are subject to rational basis review, and courts should uphold the legislative classification so long as it bears a rational relation to some legitimate end. By contrast, laws that target a suspect class are subject to heightened scrutiny.
The three high school student, Juliet Evancho, Et Al., plaintiffs were transgender, and all in their senior year at defendant Pine-Richland High School. Two of them were over eighteen years old, and had male listed on their birth certificates when they were born. While, that of the third plaintiff who was also a high school senior, but not yet eighteen years old said female. The defendant school district did not dispute that, plaintiffs were identified as transgender, which means that their gender identities are at odds with the sexes listed on their original birth certificates and with their external sex organs. Their teachers, school administrators, fellow students and others have treated plaintiffs consistently with their gender identities as they have lived and expressed them rather than according to their assigned sexes. According to the defendants, the plaintiffs, except for purposes of excretory functions, were of the gender with which they identify, and the defendants treated the plaintiffs' gender identities as their sex in all other interactions with the defendant school district. However, plaintiffs argued that the defendant school district's application of Resolution 2, prevented them from continuing to use common student restrooms that conform to their gender identities violates both Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, in the former case by unlawfully discriminating against them based on their sexes, and in the latter case by impermissibly treating them differently than other District students based on their gender identities, and therefore their sexes. Plaintiffs sought an order of this Court enjoining the defendant from enforcing Resolution 2 as to them and restoring the status quo ante as to how the defendant interacted with the plaintiffs prior to the enactment of Resolution 2.
Did the defendant acted in accord with federal law when it limited, by formal School Board Resolution 2, the common school bathrooms that the plaintiffs may use?
No. The court granted in part plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction. Defendants' motion to dismiss was denied.
The court ruled that the defendant school district did not act in accord with the Equal Protection Clause when it limited the common school bathrooms that plaintiff transgender students could use to either single-user bathrooms or student bathrooms labeled as matching their assigned sexes. The court then held that plaintiffs had a reasonable likelihood of success on the merits of their Equal Protection claim and met the additional requirements for limited preliminary injunctive relief. As the preliminary injunction provided restoration of the status quo as to the use of common restrooms by plaintiffs. However, the court held that the law surrounding 34 C.F.R. § 106.33 and its interpretation and application to Title IX claims relative to the use of common restrooms by transgender students was clouded with uncertainty. Thus, the necessary showing of likely success on the merits of plaintiffs' Title IX claim could not be made.