A lengthy statutory battle between Highland Local School District and the US Department of Education Civil Rights Commission has spurred a lawsuit filed last Friday between the district and the US departments of Education and Justice.
The suit pits Highland against the two government agencies for “making federal educational funding dependent on students sharing overnight accommodations, locker rooms, showers and restrooms with the opposite sex.”
In December 2013, a district family filed a complaint with the US Department of Education Civil Rights Commission, stating that Highland was in violation of Title IX alleging that a student was being discriminated against on basis of sex.
After years of investigation, the US Department of Education found that Highland was in violation of Title IX and therefore must allow access to bathrooms on basis of gender preference.
Additionally, the Department of Education, upon conclusion of its investigation, threatened to pull federal funding from the district because school officials did not allowed a student who professes a gender that conflicts with that student’s biological sex to access intimate facilities.
Last Thursday, the Highland School Board formally resolved to hire Alliance Defending Freedom. The ADF, on behalf of the district filed suit against the following day.
After over two years of attempting to resolve the issue with the Department of Education and the Department of Justice, Highland stands to lose over $ 1 million in federal funding for not complying with the departments’ requests
“The Department of Education states that Highland is in violation of Title IX and this could alter federal funding,” , Attorney for Highland, Matt Sharp stated. “The Highland School Board does not feel as though they are in violation of Title IX and that the federal government has misinterpreted the law.”
Sharp cites multiple legal cases as precendent for Highland’s decision to file suit.
In recent years six similar cases have gone before the court system throughout the country to find that in five of the six cases the court ruled in favor of the school district.
The final case, in Glouster Virginia, made its way to the US Supreme Court.
Currently, the Alliance Defending Freedom is entangled in two additional cases with the same issue in Illinois and North Carolina.
However, Highland’s case is the first in Ohio and when asked, Sharp stated that this could continue in litigation for two or more years and that this may, indeed, land before the Ohio Supreme Court.
While waiting for the case to be resolved, Highland intends to ask the court to issue an injunction to stop any disruption of funding for the district.
“I am honored for the opportunity to represent this Board. Highland is an example of how to protect long-standing rights while preserving the dignity of all students,” said Sharp.
Ohio has responded to the issue with a letter from state Attorney General Mike DeWine, in which his office declares the same defense as the Alliance Defending Freedom in that the federal government is misinterpreting the law, trying to change the law without proper due process and that the “federal government cannot use its spending authority to impose administrative conditions on states.”
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