Guest Editorials, Opinion

Pa. school district sued for treatment of LGBT+ students

The Central Bucks School District is one of the wealthiest school systems in Pennsylvania. That will come in handy since the district is paying a lawyer $940 an hour to defend a federal complaint of its own making.

The complaint against the school district was the result of a four-month investigation by the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania. The ACLU interviewed dozens of Central Bucks students, family members, current and former teachers, school staff and community stakeholders.

What emerged from those interviews was “a toxic educational environment for LGBTQ students.” To make matters worse, the trauma and pain inflicted on the students have been “exacerbated by homophobic and transphobic actions and polices taken recently by the school board and upper-level administrators,” the ACLU found.

As a result of the findings, the ACLU sued the Central Bucks School District on behalf of seven students, alleging “a widespread culture of discrimination against LGBTQ students, particularly transgender and nonbinary students.”

Keep in mind these adults are charged with keeping students safe. But instead of teaching tolerance and acceptance, the Central Bucks School District has essentially launched a crusade against LGBTQ students.

School district officials have also targeted teachers who intercede. One middle school teacher who was seen as an advocate for LGBTQ students was suspended and escorted from the building in the middle of the school day, according to the complaint. The suspension apparently had a chilling effect, as some teachers declined to speak with the ACLU out of fear of reprisal.

The hostile environment has worsened since the election of new school board members in November 2021, the ACLU found. The complaint detailed several new policies Central Bucks adopted over the last year, such as banning Pride flags in classrooms, prohibiting teachers from using preferred names and pronouns unless the student has parental consent, and various efforts to remove books with LGBTQ-themed content.

Recently, the school board proposed a squirrelly new plan that tries to circumvent the direct attack on “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.” But the new policy appears worse in that it eliminates those references but broadens the crackdown on free expression to include flags, banners, posters or other items “concerning any partisan, political or social policy issue.”

What is going on in the Central Bucks School District is an appalling disregard for LGBTQ students, and appears to be gender-based discrimination and a civil rights violation. Fortunately, the U.S. Department of Education has launched its own investigation. 

The best outcome would be for the school board members and administrators who have failed to protect and support the LGBTQ students to be replaced immediately.

In the meantime, Central Bucks taxpayers should demand the school district stop wasting nearly $1,000 an hour on overpriced lawyers to defend the indefensible.

This editorial first appeared in  The Philadelphia Inquirer. This commentary should be considered another point of view and not necessarily the opinion or editorial policy of The Dominion Post.