PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Pine-Richland seniors and transgender students, Juliet Evancho and Elissa Ridenour, stood before the media to explain why they filed a federal lawsuit against their school district, superintendent and high school principal. They say the past three weeks have been extremely tough.
“These past three weeks have felt like three years because we felt so trapped and so discriminated against,” Evancho said.
“I sort of had a clear picture of who my allies were, but now I’m sort of wondering and I really feel disheartened that this is happening,” Ridenour said.
A minor student who is referred to as A.S. also filed the lawsuit. He’s a high school senior as well.
On Sept. 12, a new policy was passed by the school board ordering students to use the bathroom that correlates with the sex on their birth certificate or a separate uni-sex bathroom. This vote reversed the district’s longstanding policy that students could use the bathroom with the gender they currently identified with.
“Before this all started, Pine-Richland was a very safe, kind extremely comforting place. Everyone was so sweet,” Evancho said.
But now, these students say their education is being disrupted.
“To hear it come to this trying to balance school work,” Ridenour said.
Evancho says she’s completely avoided using the bathroom ever since the new policy was put in place.
“At one point thought I was going to leave the school until my faith in the student body had been completely restored when I was nominated for homecoming queen,” Evancho said.
But despite all the struggles, these seniors say they’re fighting so hard for good reason.
“We don’t want this happening to other trans kids,” Ridenour said.
The school board director Peter Lyons issued this statement:
I cannot speak for the board of directors as a whole, but only for myself, in my role as an individual director.
It is unfortunate that five members of our board chose to change a practice of the district that had been in place without controversy for some years. This change was not representative of the respect and support the Pine-Richland community extends to all of our students, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation.
Unfortunately, the decision of those board members has now also embroiled the district in litigation that is likely to succeed, places our federal funding at risk, and will become a costly and unnecessary distraction from our mission to focus on student learning.