FAIRFAX, Va. - Fairfax County Public Schools is battling a lawsuit over its change to its nondiscrimination policy and over bathroom access for transgender students.
The lawsuit was originally filed in December by the Liberty Counsel on behalf of an anonymous Fairfax County Public Schools student, but it did not get far in court. On Wednesday, the Liberty Counsel filed a request for an appeal with the Virginia Supreme Court saying changes to the school district’s nondiscrimination policy are illegal.
“This young man has religious and moral beliefs that inform him such actions are wrong,” said Daniel Schmid, an attorney for the Liberty Counsel.
The student feels his right to privacy is violated if he is forced to share bathrooms or areas like locker rooms with transgender students.
“He said, ‘Look, this is causing me great distress, great anxiety, great conflict with my religious and moral values'” said Schmid. “And it's also making him think school is not entirely a safe place anymore.”
The lawsuit also says that changing Fairfax County Public Schools’ nondiscrimination policy to include the term "gender identity" exceeds the scope of state law.
“It's kind of disheartening because you thought you had all this faith in humanity and it just kind of up and flies out the window,” said Kayden Ortiz, a transgender male student in Fairfax County.
He said he and other transgender students are the ones who have to worry.
“We have a higher likelihood of being bullied and getting sexually harassed,” Ortiz said. “It's really depressing to see all this. We want to be just like everybody else. There is no reason to despise us.”
His mother said if it is safety that students and parents are concerned with, the focus should be elsewhere.
“If you try to research how many transgender individuals have harassed others in bathrooms, it is virtually none – zero,” said Chaiya Ortiz, Kayden’s mother. “But if you want to take that logical approach, if we are going to use the same logic, then we cannot allow teachers, school coaches, school band directors, priests, pastors, parents, siblings, daycare workers – we can’t allow anyone to use a bathroom with our children.”
Fairfax County Public Schools said in a statement:
"Ms. Lafferty has filed an appeal to the Supreme Court of Virginia from the dismissal of her lawsuit. We will be filing our opposition to the appeal in the next few weeks. Throughout this legal challenge to our policy, we will continue to focus on treating all of our students with dignity and respect."
Fairfax County Public Schools has 21 days to respond to the lawsuit and then the court will decide if they will hear the appeal.
You may be wondering about the Department of Education’s letter sent to schools across the nation requiring them to provide appropriate accommodations to transgender students. The Liberty Counsel said that letter has no force of law.