PORT RICHEY, Florida, November 16, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Most parents would assume that refusing to look at a naked child of the opposite sex goes without saying for any teacher, but a school district in Florida has opted to punish a male physical education teacher for attempting to avoid that situation.
Liberty Counsel is representing gym teachers Robert Oppedisano and Stephanie Christensen at Chasco Middle School (CMS). According to the nonprofit law firm’s letter to the Pasco County school board, the dispute stems from administrators’ decision to allow a female CMS student who “identifies” as a boy to use male restrooms and locker rooms. The district also wants the girl’s “identity” affirmed with male pronouns.
Both teachers objected to the order, which afforded male students and their parents no advance warning that they would be sharing facilities with a girl. Administrators warned that it would be “discriminatory” for them to warn students of the situation, and ordered Oppedisano to continue supervising the boys’ locker room despite his reluctance to potentially view a girl undressing.
“I told them I have an issue with it,” Christensen told the Tampa Bay Times last month. “Part of my concern is, if students are allowed to do this, the other kids and their parents have a right to know. It’s their privacy, too.”
“Robert will not knowingly place himself in a position to observe a minor female in the nude or otherwise in a state of undress,” Liberty Counsel writes. “Now, Robert has been told by administrators that he will be transferred to another school as discipline for ‘not doing your job in the locker room.’” The administration also claimed the girl has “every right to use” the boys’ locker room.
On September 27, the letter says, the female student was first admitted to the locker room, where her presence caused the boys “embarrassment and concern by the fact that they had been observed changing by an obvious girl.” The male students sought assistance from Christensen and Oppedisano, who “were powerless to respond, because administrators had placed a gag order on them.”
“No law requires this course of events,” Liberty Counsel told the district, warning that it “is violating male students’ and teachers’ rights at Chasco Middle School.” The letter goes on to explain that Florida has no state-level recognition of “gender identity” that would require such actions, and that the federal government has been enjoined from interpreting Title VII or Title IX in such a way.
“The Supreme Court has acknowledged the lawfulness of sex-based standards that flow from legitimate biological differences between the sexes,” the letter notes, explaining that such rules “ensure fairness, equity, and safety; satisfy reasonable expectations of a constitutional right to privacy; reflect common practice in society; and promote core values of dignity and respect between boys and girls.”
“Even Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has stated, ‘Separate places to disrobe, sleep, perform personal bodily functions are permitted, in some situations required, by regard for individual privacy,’” Liberty Counsel points out.
“Despite the initial September incident, then legal contact in October, the elected board for the district with 70,500 students has so far taken no action and administrators have refused to budge,” The Federalist’s Joy Pullmann reported this week.
District employee relations director Kathy Scalise denied to the Times that the district threatened either teachers’ job, and school board attorney Dennis Alfonso claims the district is merely trying to follow rulings other districts in the state have received. “This is an area of law that is somewhat fluid,” he admitted.
According to Liberty Counsel, the district’s actions stem in part from a “Best Practices Guide” developed by school psychologist Jackie Jackson-Dean and adopted without the school board’s approval. The guide declares that “transgender and gender nonconforming students have the right to use the locker room facility that matches their gender identity,” and tells teachers to “refrain from talking to anyone else about” a student “coming out” as homosexual or transgendered, “including their parent(s).”
Calling the case a contender for “most insane story of the year,” conservative commentator Andrew Klavan said it was an example of “how the Left is making people safe for their transgenderism, they’re trying to force an adult male to watch an underage girl undress. Everything they do turns out the opposite of what they say they intend. It makes you wonder about their intentions.”