The Missouri Supreme Court will issue a major decision this summer which will have a major impact on the personal privacy of students in the state’s public schools. The state high court’s ruling in this landmark case will determine whether students have the right to access the restrooms, locker rooms, and showers of the opposite sex.The case involves an 18-year-old female student in the Blue Springs School District who imagines herself to be a boy. School district officials have allowed the girl to participate in boys’ sports and physical education classes, but have denied her demands to use the boys’ restrooms and locker rooms in middle school and high school.
Attorneys for the teenage girl claim that they obtained a court order in 2014 which authorized a change in her birth certificate to falsely portray her as a boy. The student in question has not undergone any type of “sex change” surgery. Advocates for the girl say that her exclusion from the private facilities of boys has “limited [her] success in school.”The student, who is a senior at Blue Springs South High School, has been quoted as saying: “What I think in my brain, and what resonates in my soul, should outweigh what is between my legs.”
A complaint was filed with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights in the fall of 2014 alleging that the girl had been discriminated against based on her sex in violation of the state’s public accommodations law. The school district defended its actions, saying that the girl had unrestricted access to the public accommodations that were consistent with her true gender.A lawsuit was subsequently filed in Jackson County Circuit Court in the fall of 2015 contending that the word “sex” as used in the state’s Human Rights Act should be interpreted to include so-called “gender identity.” Efforts in the Missouri General Assembly to amend public accommodations law to include so-called “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” have been rejected repeatedly over the years.
The Jackson County Circuit Court dismissed the lawsuit, and in the summer of last year a panel of the Missouri Court of Appeals affirmed that ruling in a 2-1 decision.The Appeals Court declared that the Missouri Legislature intended sex discrimination to mean “the deprival to one sex of a right or privilege afforded the other sex.” In her opinion, Judge Cynthia Martin wrote that “legislative intent is not susceptible to variance by subsequent evolving social sensitivities.” Lawyers for the student appealed the Appeals Court decision to the Missouri Supreme Court, and oral arguments in the case were heard last week. The girl’s attorneys stated that she had suffered “emotional distress” by being “singled out for…inferior access to public accommodations.” Lawyers for the school district responded that they had attempted to accommodate the girl’s requests, but drew the line at changing clothes in the presence of members of the opposite sex.
The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the Blue Springs School District’s position. “Schools have a duty to respect the privacy and dignity of every student,” said Gary McCaleb, senior counsel for ADF. “That privacy is lost when ‘gender identity’ advocates demand that ‘sex’ be re-interpreted to mean a fluid spectrum of self-perceptions.” “School locker rooms and restrooms provide a reasonable expectation of privacy from the opposite sex when young students are changing clothes or dealing with personal hygiene,” McCaleb added. “‘Sex’ mean male and female, and the real differences between boys and girls are a real reason for such privacy in bathrooms and locker rooms.”
ADF maintains that lawyers for the female student are attempting to use the Missouri Human Rights Act to obligate the government to affirm the teenage girl’s imaginary gender. ADF rightly asserts that the purpose of the state’s human rights law is to prohibit invidious sex-based discrimination–not redefine what sex is. Jonathan Whitehead, a prominent Christian attorney in Lee’s Summit, has served as a co-counsel with ADF in their defense of the true intent of the provisions of Missouri’s anti-discrimination statutes. A decision from the state Supreme Court is expected sometime this summer.