The Pennridge School District in Bucks County, north of Philadelphia, is the subject of a complaint filed with the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice and the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education. The complaint alleges it creates a hostile environment for LGBTQ+ students and students of color.
The Education Law Center-PA and the Advocacy for Racial and Civil Justice Clinic at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, representing students, teachers and families in the district, filed the complaint on Nov. 15. It accuses the Pennridge district of “chronic failure to take reasonable and necessary measures to address persistent and severe bullying and harassment of LGBTQ+ students and students of color, which has resulted in a hostile environment for these students.”
The discriminatory actions of the Pennridge School District continue to this day, the complaint alleges, citing the school board’s October enactment of a sports policy requiring teams to be divided by sex assigned at birth as a recent example.
Multiple individual complainants are referenced in the 77-page complaint document.
One individual complaint is from a Black student who alleges they have experienced “severe and pervasive race-based harassment by fellow students” as well as discriminatory discipline by the school district.
Another is from a transgender teacher who alleges they went through “isolation and sex-based harassment” due to Pennridge School District policies such as a rule enacted in May requiring individuals to only use bathrooms that align with their sex assigned at birth, ultimately leading to the teacher’s resignation.
The school board currently has an 8-1 Republican majority, but that was upended this month when Democrats swept the school board election. The new board members will take office in December.
The complaint filed with the Department of Justice and Department of Education seeks remedies for the situation in the Pennridge district, including a mandate that board members and staff receive racial bias and cultural competency training; the creation of a districtwide diversity-focused position; a requirement that the board make “diverse, culturally responsive learning materials” available; and the establishment of a “stakeholder equity team” of teachers, administrators, parents, students and other members of the district community.