Respect Equality

ACLU lawsuit alleges ‘culture of discrimination against LGBTQ+ students’ in Pennsylvania school district

The ACLU of Pennsylvania in a federal lawsuit Thursday said actions by the Central Bucks School District constitute “intentional gender-based discrimination” in violation of the U.S. Constitution and Title IX.
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Story at a glance


  • The ACLU of Pennsylvania on Thursday filed a lawsuit in federal court against the Central Bucks School District, alleging district policies had created a hostile environment for LGBTQ+ students.

  • The complaint claims the school district has banned Pride flags as “political symbols” and instructed teachers to deadname and misgender transgender students.

  • The lawsuit was filed on behalf of seven students in Central Bucks School District, all of whom are minors.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Pennsylvania on Thursday filed a federal lawsuit against the state’s fourth-largest school district, alleging the district had created a hostile environment for LGBTQ+ students by adopting policies that target their identities.

In the complaint filed Thursday, the ACLU of Pennsylvania said several actions taken by the Central Bucks School District (CBSD) constitute “intentional gender-based discrimination” in violation of the U.S. Constitution and Title IX.

The school district, according to the lawsuit, has adopted policies that perpetuate “a toxic educational environment” by banning Pride flags and instructing teachers to deadname and misgender transgender students.

In July, CBSD board members voted to adopt a controversial policy that allows books considered inappropriate for young readers to be removed from school libraries. LGBTQ+ advocates and allies said they worried the policy would disproportionately impact books about LGBTQ+ issues and identities, which have been targeted in a recent slew of book bans across the country.


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The school district has also refused requests from students, parents and teachers to provide training to staff about how to support LGBTQ+ students and implement nondiscrimination policies, the ACLU of Pennsylvania said in its lawsuit.

The complaint was filed with the Department of Justice (DOJ) Civil Rights Division and the Department of Education (DOE) Office for Civil Rights on behalf of seven students in Central Bucks School District, all of whom are minors.

“These children deserve a safe environment where they can learn and be their full selves without fear of being bullied by other students,” Witold Walczak, legal director at the ACLU of Pennsylvania, said Thursday in a news release.

“Unfortunately, rather than combat the toxic educational environment faced by LGBTQ+ students in Central Bucks, a new school board majority and the administration have exacerbated the problems,” Walczak said.

The lawsuit against CBSD is the product of a five-month investigation by ACLU of Pennsylvania attorneys, the organization said Thursday. Lawyers interviewed dozens of students and their families, as well as current and former district teachers and school staff and community stakeholders.

The investigation, according to the lawsuit, found that a hostile environment for LGBTQ+ students, particularly gender non-conforming students, has persisted in CBSD for multiple years. The school district, the lawsuit alleges, “not only has failed to take reasonable measures to address the hostile environment, but also has adopted policies and taken actions overtly hostile towards LGBTQ+ students.”

“School should be an environment that fosters creativity and the free exchange of ideas; where all children can form friendships that might last a lifetime and engage in a journey of self-discovery that guides them into adulthood,” the ACLU of Pennsylvania tweeted Thursday morning, but “that’s not the case” in Central Bucks School District.

In an emailed statement to Changing America, Abram M. Lucabaugh, the district’s superintendent, said CBSD does not comment on legal matters, but said the school district believes it is “paramount that all students and teachers are cared for and respected as members of our learning and teaching community.”