Wis. Appeals Court Sides With Transgender Student in Bathroom Case

The court’s ruling upholds a lower court’s decision to let the student use the bathroom that matches his gender identity.

A Wisconsin court of appeals ruled that student Ash Whitaker, who was assigned female at birth but identifies as a boy, will be allowed to use his school’s boys’ bathroom.

The decision upholds a previous ruling which granted Whitaker a preliminary injunction in September, reports Newsweek.

Whitaker, 17, had originally sued the school district of Tremper High School in July of last year after administrators made him use female or gender-neutral bathrooms.

The ruling also comes amidst a new legal environment after President Donald Trump withdrew Title IX guidance for schools on transgender bathroom policies.

That withdrawal was joined by new guidance indicating that the Department of Education believed “there must be due regard for the primary role of the states and local school districts” in determining transgender bathroom policies.

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In Whitaker’s case, Wisconsin administrators had cited privacy concerns and their attorneys argued their policies weren’t violating the Equal Protection Clause.

But the appeals court ruled that administrators were likely violating Whitaker’s Title IX rights, and Judge Anne Claire Williams noted seemingly unequal treatment between students as reasoning for her decision.

“The School District treats transgender students like Ash, who fail to conform to the sex-based stereotypes associated with their assigned sex at birth, differently,” Williams wrote in the opinion. “This places the burden on the School District to demonstrate that its justification for its bathroom policy is not only genuine but also exceedingly persuasive… this burden has not been met here.”

Whitaker released a statement through the Transgender Law Center, which represented him in court.

“After facing daily humiliation at school last year from being threatened with discipline and being constantly monitored by school staff just to use the bathroom, the district court’s injunction in September allowed me to be a typical senior in high school and to focus on my classes, after-school activities, applying to college and building lasting friendships,” Whitaker said.

The school district’s counsel said administrators were disappointed with the court’s decision.

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