Evancho v. Pine-Richland Sch. Dist., Civil No. 2:16–01537

CourtUnited States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. Western District of Pennsylvania
Writing for the CourtMark R. Hornak, United States District Judge
Citation237 F.Supp.3d 267
Parties Juliet EVANCHO, et al., Plaintiffs, v. PINE–RICHLAND SCHOOL DISTRICT, et al., Defendants.
Decision Date27 February 2017
Docket NumberCivil No. 2:16–01537

237 F.Supp.3d 267

Juliet EVANCHO, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
PINE–RICHLAND SCHOOL DISTRICT, et al., Defendants.

Civil No. 2:16–01537

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania.

Signed February 27, 2017


237 F.Supp.3d 272

David C. Williams, Tracie L. Palmer, Kline & Specter, P.C., Philadelphia, PA, Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc., New York, NY, Christopher R. Clark, Kara N. Ingelhart, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc., Chicago, IL, for Plaintiffs.

Alfred C. Maiello, Christina L. Lane, Gary H. Dadamo, Peter J. Halesey, Roger W. Foley, Jr., Michael L. Brungo, Maiello, Brungo & Maiello, LLP, Pittsburgh, PA, for Defendants.

OPINION *

Mark R. Hornak, United States District Judge

The three high school student Plaintiffs are each transgender, and all are in their senior year at Pine–Richland (Pa.) High School ("High School"). ECF 43 at ¶ 15. Two of them, Juliet Evancho and Elissa Ridenour, each over eighteen years old, had "male" listed on their birth certificates when they were born.1 That of the third Plaintiff, A.S. (also a high school senior, but not yet eighteen years old), said "female." For some time, Juliet Evancho and Elissa Ridenour have lived all facets of their lives as girls, and A.S. has done so as a boy.

The Defendant School District ("District")2 does not dispute that Plaintiffs

237 F.Supp.3d 273

identify as transgender, which means, among other things, that their gender identities are at odds with the sexes listed on their original birth certificates and with their external sex organs. ECF 38 at ¶ 2. It is undisputed that in all respects, the Plaintiffs have—at least for their high school years—lived every facet of their in-school and out-of-school lives consistently with their respective gender identities rather than their "assigned sexes."3 Their teachers, school administrators, fellow students and others have treated the Plaintiffs consistently with their gender identities as they have lived and expressed them rather than according to their assigned sexes. ECF 36–4 at ¶¶ 25–26. According to the District, the Plaintiffs, except for purposes of excretory functions, are of the gender with which they identify, and the District treats the Plaintiffs' gender identities as their "sex" in all other interactions with the District. ECF 38 at ¶¶ 3, 4, 5, 9; ECF 36–5 at 12–14; ECF 73 at 73.

The central issue now before the Court is whether the District acted in accord with federal law when it limited, by formal School Board ("Board") Resolution 2,4 the common school bathrooms that these Plaintiffs may use to either (a) single-user bathrooms or (b) the bathrooms labeled as matching their assigned sexes. The Plaintiffs argue that the District's application of Resolution 2 to prevent 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. The relief Plaintiffs seek in their motion for preliminary injunctive relief is relatively narrow. They seek an order of this Court enjoining the District from enforcing Resolution 2 as to them and restoring the status quo ante as to how the District interacted with the Plaintiffs prior to the enactment of Resolution 2.

The Court concludes that the Plaintiffs have a reasonable likelihood of success on the merits of their Equal Protection claim but not on the merits of their Title IX claim. The Court will therefore grant in

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part the Plaintiffs' Motion for a Preliminary Injunction, ECF 22; ECF 24. The Court will deny without prejudice the District's Motion to Dismiss both of the Plaintiffs' claims, ECF 34.

I.

Court cases involve real people and real events. Facts matter,5 so it is both worthwhile and important to note what the record now before the Court does and does not demonstrate.6

Plaintiff Juliet Evancho began to change her appearance and dress to that typically associated with a girl at around age 12 or 13. She began medically supervised hormone treatment at around age 16, and in 2015, at age 17, she publicly began living as a girl. During the 2015–16 school year, Ms. Evancho and her parents met with school officials regarding her gender identity as a girl, and those school officials were fully on board with treating her consistently with that identity. She says that the passage of Resolution 2 and its implementation as to her have caused her serious emotional and other distress, making her feel unsafe, depressed, marginalized and stigmatized by, among other things, the School's requirement that she use only either the boys restrooms or the single-user restrooms at the High School.7 ECF

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24–2 at 46–52, 55, 62. Ms. Evancho's photo, which shows that her appearance is completely consistent only with the gender identity that she lives every day, is in the record at ECF 24–2 at ¶ 7.

Plaintiff Elissa Ridenour began to live her life as a girl at age 14, and she likewise began medically supervised hormonal therapy thereafter. In 2012, while in 8th grade, she and her parents met with school officials to advise them that she was living her life in all respects as a girl. The District officials stated that they would engage with her in that fashion. ECF 71–2. Ms. Ridenour is treated by the High School community as a girl, and—at least prior to the passage of Resolution 2—was fully accepted as a girl. She reports that Resolution 2 had essentially the same impact on her as does Ms. Evancho. ECF 24–3 at ¶¶ 28, 31, 34, 40. Plaintiff Ridenour's photo, which shows that her appearance is consistent only with the gender identity that she lives every day, is in the record at ECF 24–3 at ¶ 8.

Plaintiff A.S. and his parents met with school counselors in 2015 and advised them that he lived as a boy. The school counselors advised him that he would be treated as a boy within the school community, and he was. Beginning in his junior year at the High School, A.S. started using the "boys" restroom with no issues, and he was widely accepted as a boy by the school community. In 2016, he too began receiving medically-directed hormonal treatment, and he has now legally changed his given name to one traditionally used by boys. A.S. also asserts the same sorts of actual harm from the implementation of Resolution 2 as do the other Plaintiffs. ECF 24–4 at ¶¶ 24, 33–35.

The Plaintiffs have submitted the declaration of Dr. Diane Ehrensaft, a developmental and clinical psychologist who has declared that she has considerable educational and professional experience in the area of gender identity matters. ECF 24–5. Dr. Ehrensaft stated that what is reported by the Plaintiffs as to their gender identities, their life experiences, and the scope of the impact of that identity on their daily living is fully consistent with their having exactly the gender identities they say that they have and the way they live in all facets of their lives. The Plaintiffs' own unopposed declarations, and those of their parents, state the depth and consistency with which they live the gender identities they have expressed on the record here. Indeed, there is no record evidence that these Plaintiffs do not actually have the specific gender identities they relate to this Court (and as they related to, and were known by, the District Administration while Resolution 2 was under consideration), nor has the District advanced any arguments to that effect.8

The parties seem to agree that besides Plaintiffs, there are no other openly-known transgender students at the High School at this time. The District does not advance as a factual matter that there are any other students at any level in the District that have advised the District that they are transgender. ECF 73 at 83, 88. Thus, in terms of the real world, the passage of Resolution 2 and its current application would fairly be understood by the Plaintiffs, the District and everyone else paying attention to these matters as relating to

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these Plaintiffs and their use of common bathrooms. Such would have well been known to the Board and the District Administration as being the case. ECF 23–3 at 4.

As to the High School restroom facilities themselves, the parties agree that the student restrooms at the High School are well-maintained, well-lit, and provide locking doors for the toilets in both the girls and boys restrooms. There are partitions on the urinals in the boys rooms. ECF 23–4 at 40. The photos of the restrooms placed into the record demonstrate all of that to be the case. ECF 41–3. The parties agree that the nearly one dozen single-user restrooms arrayed around the High School are now open to any student at any time, including to any student that has a particularized privacy concern. ECF 38 at 35–39.

Until early 2016, there were no institutional...

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23 practice notes
  • Doe v. Trump, Civil Action No. 17–1597 (CKK)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • October 30, 2017
    ...identity is a quasi-suspect form of classification that triggers heightened scrutiny. See Evancho v. Pine–Richland Sch. Dist. , 237 F.Supp.3d 267, 288 (W.D. Pa. 2017) (holding that "all of the indicia for the application of the heightened intermediate scrutiny standard are present" for tran......
  • Adams v. Sch. Bd. of St. Johns Cnty., No. 18-13592
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • July 14, 2021
    ...district lacked an "exceedingly persuasive justification for th[e] sex-based discrimination"); Evancho v. Pine-Richland Sch. Dist., 237 F. Supp. 3d 267, 293 (W.D. Pa. 2017) (holding transgender students showed likelihood of success on equal protection claim to access restrooms consistent wi......
  • M.A.B. v. Bd. of Educ. of Talbot Cnty., Civil Action No. GLR–16–2622
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Maryland)
    • March 12, 2018
    ...report high rates of discrimination in education, employment, housing, and access to healthcare. Evancho v. Pine–Richland Sch. Dist., 237 F.Supp.3d 267, 288 (W.D.Pa. 2017) ; Bd. of Educ. of the Highland Local Sch. Dist. v. U.S. Dep't of Educ., 208 F.Supp.3d 850, 874 (S.D. Ohio 2016) ; Adkin......
  • Grimm v. Gloucester Cnty. Sch. Bd., Civil No. 4:15cv54
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Virginia)
    • May 22, 2018
    ...must use the bathroom corresponding to the sex listed on the student's birth certificate"); Evancho v. Pine–Richland Sch. Dist. , 237 F.Supp.3d 267, 288, 295 (W.D. Pa. 2017) ; Bd. of Educ. of the Highland Local Sch. Dist. v. U.S. Dep't of Educ. , 208 F.Supp.3d 850, 865, 869, 871 (S.D. Ohio ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
22 cases
  • Doe v. Trump, Civil Action No. 17–1597 (CKK)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • October 30, 2017
    ...identity is a quasi-suspect form of classification that triggers heightened scrutiny. See Evancho v. Pine–Richland Sch. Dist. , 237 F.Supp.3d 267, 288 (W.D. Pa. 2017) (holding that "all of the indicia for the application of the heightened intermediate scrutiny standard are present"......
  • Adams v. Sch. Bd. of St. Johns Cnty., No. 18-13592
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • July 14, 2021
    ...lacked an "exceedingly persuasive justification for th[e] sex-based discrimination"); Evancho v. Pine-Richland Sch. Dist., 237 F. Supp. 3d 267, 293 (W.D. Pa. 2017) (holding transgender students showed likelihood of success on equal protection claim to access restrooms consistent w......
  • M.A.B. v. Bd. of Educ. of Talbot Cnty., Civil Action No. GLR–16–2622
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Maryland)
    • March 12, 2018
    ...report high rates of discrimination in education, employment, housing, and access to healthcare. Evancho v. Pine–Richland Sch. Dist., 237 F.Supp.3d 267, 288 (W.D.Pa. 2017) ; Bd. of Educ. of the Highland Local Sch. Dist. v. U.S. Dep't of Educ., 208 F.Supp.3d 850, 874 (S.D. Ohio 2016) ; Adkin......
  • Grimm v. Gloucester Cnty. Sch. Bd., Civil No. 4:15cv54
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Virginia)
    • May 22, 2018
    ...must use the bathroom corresponding to the sex listed on the student's birth certificate"); Evancho v. Pine–Richland Sch. Dist. , 237 F.Supp.3d 267, 288, 295 (W.D. Pa. 2017) ; Bd. of Educ. of the Highland Local Sch. Dist. v. U.S. Dep't of Educ. , 208 F.Supp.3d 850, 865, 869, 871 (S.D. ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • Transgender Rights and Issues
    • United States
    • Georgetown Journal of Gender and the Law Nbr. XXII-2, January 2021
    • January 1, 2021
    ...from using the boys restrooms discriminated against him ‘on the basis of sex.’”). 473. See, e.g., Evancho v. Pine-Richland Sch. Dist., 237 F. Supp. 3d 267, 295, 301 (W.D. Pa. 2017) (f‌inding student-plaintiffs reasonably likely to succeed on equal protection grounds and granting a prelimina......

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