(1-10-23) Bethel schools transgender policy from last year has had a motion filed by the ACLU of Ohio in a federal lawsuit that challenges the transgender policy put in place by the Bethel schools.

At the time of the policy Coldwater grad and former Ft. Recovery Superintendent Justin Firks, who was Bethel Superintendent, was involved in the decision that put the plan in place.

Firks told WHIO in an email in January of 2022 –

“Unfortunately, this is not an issue where personal beliefs of the Superintendent, administration or Board of Education are relevant. The rulings of transgender bathroom issues are of statutory interpretation not whether it is right, wrong, moral or immoral, or a violation of Christian values.”

Firks is no longer the Bethel Superintendent after he resigned and is now the high school principal at Elida High School.

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ACLU of Ohio Press Release

COLUMBUS (1-9-23) — Today the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Ohio, and the law firm Benesch Friedlander Coplan & Aronoff LLP, filed a motion on behalf of a transgender student to intervene in a federal lawsuit, Doe v. Bethel. The initial case challenges the Bethel Local School District’s decision to allow transgender students to use communal restrooms consistent with their gender identity. The ACLU also has asked the court to deny the plaintiff’s motion for preliminary injunction, which would bar transgender students from access to restrooms matching their gender identity.

Although it is undisputed that Bethel Local School District has provided all students with an option to use single-occupancy restrooms, the plaintiffs’ lawsuit seeks to deny transgender students the same arrangement, and instead to deny them access from communal restrooms matching their gender identity.

The ACLU argues that the school’s accommodation is appropriate and should not be disturbed by court order.

David Carey, Deputy Legal Director at the ACLU of Ohio

“Transgender students all too often suffer from discrimination and bullying. The school’s current approach helps to protect them from being singled out, suffering humiliation, and being exposed to serious risks of harm. One student’s religious beliefs do not provide a basis to exclude another student from full participation in the school environment.”

Malita Picasso, Staff Attorney at the ACLU LGBTQ & HIV Project. “

“All students have a right to safe, inclusive learning environments, and transgender students are no different. Allowing a girl who is transgender to use the same restroom facilities as her fellow female classmates is not discriminatory, nor does it harm any other students. While all students should be allowed to choose to use a single-occupancy restroom, no student should be singled out and required to use a separate restroom facility solely because she is transgender. We are fighting to ensure that every student, transgender or not, has an equal chance to thrive.”

Michael Meuti, Benesch Partner and Chair of its Appellate Practice Group

“At its core, this is an effort to affirm the dignity of all people and ensure their equal treatment as our Constitution requires. All individuals are entitled to equal protection under the law, regardless of their gender identity. Living out this nation’s creed requires standing up for the rights of marginalized communities and viewing America’s potential through their eyes. Transgender individuals are no exception,” added David Hopkins, Benesch Associate Attorney.

The ACLU argues that the public has a strong interest in advancing policies that affirmatively protect transgender students and create inclusive school environments. Prohibiting transgender girls from using the girls’ restrooms would subject them to social stigma, and deny them equal access to the education afforded to all other students.