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Transgender sister of inauguration singer Jackie Evancho wins injunction in bathroom lawsuit

Transgender teens Juliet Evancho and Elissa Ridenour sued their school district after the school board passed a policy barring them from the girls’ bathroom. Evancho is the sister of Jackie Evancho, who sang at President Trump’s inauguration and later pleaded with him to meet with her and Juliet to discuss transgender rights. (Courtesy of Lambda Legal)

Jackie Evancho, best known for her angelic vocals at President Trump’s inauguration ceremony, has also used her voice to press the commander in chief to meet with her and her transgender sister Juliet, with the goal of educating him about the struggles of the transgender community.

Last week, Trump’s Education and Justice departments rescinded federal guidance that directed public schools to give transgender students access to bathrooms that match their gender identity. The guidance had been issued under Trump’s predecessor, former president Barack Obama.

Trump administration rolls back protections for transgender students

Juliet Evancho — who is 18, two years older than her singing sister — is one of numerous transgender students across the country pressing schools on bathroom access issues. After she was barred from using the girls’ bathroom at school, Evancho joined two other transgender students in suing their Pennsylvania school district.

On Monday, the plaintiffs won a court victory when a federal judge ordered the district to allow the students to use bathrooms that match their gender identity while the case proceeds. Judge Mark Hornak of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania also ruled that the students’ suit against the school district could continue.

Evancho, Elissa Ridenour and a transgender boy identified by his initials A.S., all seniors at Pine-Richland High School north of Pittsburgh, sued the Pine-Richland School District in October not long after the board passed a policy requiring students to use bathrooms designated for their “biological sex” or unisex bathrooms.

Attorneys from Lambda Legal, which is representing the students, argue the policy violates Title IX, a federal law that bars sex discrimination in schools, and the equal protection clause of the Constitution.

Ridenour expressed relief over the judge’s decision, which goes into effect March 1.
“This is wonderful news and a tremendous relief that we can now use the bathroom without feeling isolated and humiliated,” Ridenour said in a statement. “The past months have been incredibly stressful, and this was all so unnecessary. There was no problem before, and we are confident there will be no problem now.”

In a statement, the district said it would implement the order.

The case is one of several asking courts to weigh in on whether transgender students should have the right to use bathrooms and locker rooms that align with their gender identity. Many of those cases could be resolved through a Supreme Court ruling. The high court is scheduled is scheduled to hear in March oral arguments in the case of Gavin Grimm, a transgender teen from Gloucester, Va., who sued his school board after it passed a policy barring him from the boys’ restroom.

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In other jurisdictions, parents have sued to uphold such policies, arguing that they are needed for privacy and security.

According to the Pennsylvania suit involving Juliet Evancho, the school district had previously permitted all three plaintiffs to use bathrooms that align with their gender identity, arrangements that were made without fanfare. Evancho was a finalist last year for school homecoming queen.

But some parents who caught wind of the situation pressed the board to pass the restrictive bathroom policy.

In granting the preliminary injunction, Hornak concluded the students are likely to succeed in their argument that the policy violates the equal protection clause. But he deferred to the Supreme Court, which is scheduled to hear a similar case next month, on whether the students could successfully argue that the policy violates Title IX.

This story has been updated.

Activists demonstrated in front of the White House in February 2017, after the Trump administration nixed guidance on transgender student rights. (Video: Reuters)