The Virginia Supreme Court has dealt a blow to a bid to overturn protections for gay and transgender students at a northern Virginia school district.
Andrea Lafferty, president of the Traditional Values Coalition, and a student filed a lawsuit after the Fairfax County School Board voted to add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to its non-discrimination policy. They argued that the policy is unlawful because such protections aren’t included in state law.
The state Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a lower court ruling dismissing the lawsuit. The Supreme Court said Lafferty and the student lacked standing to bring the challenge.
The court agreed with the Fairfax County Circuit Court that the plaintiffs in the case –an anonymous student, his parents, and Andrea Lafferty, a Fairfax County resident and president of the Traditional Values Coalition and Women for a Great America — did not have standing to sue over the addition of sexual orientation and gender identity to the county’s existing nondiscrimination policy.
The student, Jack Doe, has claimed he is “distressed” over the nondiscrimination policy, which he argues will lead to him being forced to share intimate spaces like restrooms and locker rooms with transgender males, who he considers to be female. Additionally, he claims to be uncertain of what words or actions might be considered discriminatory against transgender people and is “distressed” over any potential punishments that school officials might dole out.
But the Supreme Court ruled in its opinion that Doe, and by extension, his parents, did not have the right to sue because they never suffered any injury — that is, Jack Doe was never punished, or threatened with suspension or expulsion for his objection to the policy and opposition to sharing spaces with transgender students. Rather, the court found that Doe’s fears of punishment were speculative, based on what Fairfax County Public Schools might do, rather than based on adverse, concrete actions taken by the school system or the school board.
The justices wrote that the student’s “general distress” over the non-discrimination policy isn’t enough to allow him to bring a lawsuit against the school.