Fact Check: Judge Did NOT Rule Girls Have No Right To Privacy And That They Must Shower With Boys

Fact Check

  • by: Alexis Tereszcuk
Fact Check: Judge Did NOT Rule Girls Have No Right To Privacy And That They Must Shower With Boys

Did a federal judge rule that high school girls must shower with boys, saying girls have no right to privacy? No, that's not true: This is an oversimplification of a ruling in a long-running lawsuit that was dismissed in 2019. The judge in the case did not force girls to shower with boys - nor was there a ruling that girls had no right to privacy. Yet, multiple outlets continue to run a story from a conservative outlet that was originally published the same year the suit was voluntarily dismissed. And so, the false story continues to have life on the internet.

The claim, for example, reappeared in an article published by Dachshunddaily.com on February 19, 2020, titled "JUDGE RULES HIGH SCHOOL GIRLS MUST SHOWER WITH BOYS, SAYS GIRLS HAVE NO RIGHT TO PRIVACY - Dachshund Daily" (archived here) which opened:

A federal court permitted a lawsuit to proceed against an Illinois school district that allows high school boys to use girls' locker rooms, restrooms and showers in order to accommodate transgender students.

But girls who don't want to be seen naked by boys got bad news, College Fix reports. The judge ruled that they have no right to "visual bodily privacy" if the government says so.

Dozens of families sued the Chicago-area Township High School District 211 three years ago due to its policy letting students as young as 14 choose to use the locker rooms of the opposite sex.

"All the students must use the restroom with the knowledge that someone of the opposite sex is present or could walk in at any time," their lawyers at the Alliance Defending Freedom wrote in a background document on the case.

It makes the stakes clear: "If our government is powerful enough to command innocent school children to disrobe in the presence of opposite-sex classmates, then there will be little it will not be powerful enough to do."

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The federal judge, Jorge Alonso, ruled on several sections of the case, but the ruling that girl students must shower with boys did not exist - and the subsequent news articles were an exaggeration.

Snopes.com has previously debunked the claim.

The group that filed the lawsuit, Students and Parents for Privacy, voluntarily dismissed it in 2019, but news reports as recently as February 23, 2020, continue to run with the story. The stories misinterpreted the suit to suggest it was about transgender high school students using the locker room with other students of the same gender with which they identify.

The case began in Illinois in 2013, when parents sued a school district in Cook County on behalf of their daughters whom they believed were being forced to shower with a transgender female student.

The conservative website CollegeFix.com wrote a story in April 2019, stating that a judge ruled girls must shower with boys. This story appears to be the original article upon which multiple outlets based their stories with the headline "Judge Rules High School Girls MUST Shower With Boys, Says Girls Have No Right to Privacy."

An explanation of the case is more complicated. The actual story began in December 2013, when a transgender female student going to school in the Chicago area filed a complaint with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, or ACLU, to the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights.

The student claimed that Township High School District 211, Chicago's northwest suburbs, violated federal sex-discrimination laws because she was denied access to the girls' locker room and was forced to change her clothes in a separate changing room.

After several years, the Office of Civil Rights signed an agreement that the student would be allowed to use the girls' locker room, and the school would provide "privacy curtains" in each locker room to protect her privacy and the privacy of the other female students.

Parents were outraged, and a group calling themselves "Students and Parents for Privacy" filed a lawsuit in May 2016 claiming the Department of Education had broken the law with their agreement.

According to the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, the group claimed that the locker room agreement had harmed female students:

The embarrassment, humiliation, anxiety, fear, apprehension, stress, degradation, and loss of dignity these girls' experience because of Defendant's Policy and Actions are heightened because as adolescents they are at a time in their lives when they are the most shy, embarrassed, and aware of their bodies and the difference between their bodies and the bodies of their male classmates...The Locker Room agreement and restroom policy have had and continue to have a profoundly negative effect on the girls' access to educational opportunities, benefits, programs, and activities at their school. Other girls are changing as quickly as possible in the locker room, avoiding all eye contact and conversation, all the while experiencing great stress and anxiety over whether a biological male will walk in while they are unclothed.

The group claimed this was a violation of Title IX - the same federal sex discrimination law used by the student who was granted access to the locker room.

The case wound through the legal system, with the group suing the school district and the three transgender students who originally were given access to the locker rooms in 2016.

In 2018, the school district filed a motion to dismiss the claims and asked the court to throw out the case. And, in March 2019, a judge handed down a ruling in the case - a ruling that CollegeFix.com used as the basis for their misleading story. Alonso ruled that some portions of the lawsuit could move forward but others could not.

The specific part of the ruling that was misrepresented in the CollegeFix.com article - which was picked up by, among others, Christian Broadcast News, and USHealthPharma.com - claimed that Alonso dismissed the group's claim that the locker room policy violated female students' right to "bodily privacy." The ruling read:

So far, the right not to be seen unclothed by the opposite sex is not on the Supreme Court's list.

Alonso did not, however, rule that girls were forced to shower with boys, just that the several portions of the lawsuit were allowed to move forward within the legal system. According to court documents filed on April 12, 2019, Students and Parents for Privacy filed a motion to voluntarily dismiss the case:

As no answer nor motion for summary judgment has been served by the opposing parties in this case, Plaintiffs respectfully notify the Court that they have voluntarily dismissed the instant case pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 41(a)(1).

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  Alexis Tereszcuk

Alexis Tereszcuk is a writer and fact checker at Lead Stories and an award-winning journalist who spent over a decade breaking hard news and celebrity scoop with RadarOnline and Us Weekly.

As the Entertainment Editor, she investigated Hollywood stories and conducted interviews with A-list celebrities and reality stars.  

Alexis’ crime reporting earned her spots as a contributor on the Nancy Grace show, CNN, Fox News and Entertainment Tonight, among others.

Read more about or contact Alexis Tereszcuk

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