Va. Judge Rules in Favor of Teen in Transgender School Bathroom Case

The judge ruled that a policy, which required students to use the bathroom that aligns with their biological sex, violated a transgender student's constitutional rights.
Published: May 29, 2018

A federal judge has denied a motion by a Virginia school board to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a transgender teenager who spent the majority of his high school career fighting to use the bathroom which aligned with his gender identity.

Last week, Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia ruled that Gloucester County School officials violated Gavin Grimm’s constitutional rights by banning him from the boys’ bathroom when he was a student at Gloucester High School, reports The Washington Post.

Grimm, who was born female and began living and identifying as male when he was a freshman in high school, sued the school board in July 2015 over a policy that required students to use a private bathroom or a bathroom that aligns with their biological sex.

The policy was passed after parents became outraged that the school’s principal started letting Grimm use the boys’ bathroom.

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Opponents have argued that Title IX only applies to biological sex allowing transgender people in bathrooms that conflict with the sex on their birth certificate violates the privacy of other students.

Allen ruled the policy violated Title IX laws by forcing transgender students to choose between bathrooms where they felt they did not belong and unisex bathrooms.

The board had argued that its policy was valid because Title IX allows for claims only on the basis of sex and not gender identity, according to The New York Times.

Allen disagreed, writing that Grimm’s transgender status constitutes a claim of sex discrimination and that the bathroom policy had “subjected him to sex stereotyping.”

“There were many other ways to protect privacy interests in a nondiscriminatory and more effective manner than barring Mr. Grimm from using the boys’ restrooms,” she added. “The Board’s argument that the policy did not discriminate against any one class of students is resoundingly unpersuasive.”

Allen directed lawyers for both parties to schedule a settlement conference within 30 days.

Transgender Teen Reacts to Court Ruling

Grimm, now a 19-year-old activist living in Berkeley, Calif., said being forced to use a separate unisex bathroom contributed to his feelings of alienation.

Although Grimm graduated from Gloucester High School almost a year ago, he said he broke down in tears when he received word of the ruling.

“I feel an incredible sense of relief,” Grimm wrote in a statement. “After fighting this policy since I was 15 years old, I finally have a court decision saying that what the Gloucester County School Board did to me was wrong and it was against the law. I was determined not to give up because I didn’t want any other student to have to suffer the same experience that I had to go through.”

In 2015, Grimm’s original argument that the restriction violated Title IX and a request for a court order to use the boys’ bathroom was denied by Judge Robert G. Doumar.

The U.S. Court of Appeals later ruled in Grimm’s favor, deferring to the Obama administration’s argument that bathroom restrictions for transgender students violated Title IX.

Grimm’s case was later appealed to the Supreme Court by the school board and the court was set to hear it in spring 2017.

However, the Supreme Court sent Grimm’s case back to a lower federal court after the Trump administration reversed the guidance on transgender student rights in February 2017, announcing the Supreme Court would not make the decision on whether Grimm could use the boys’ bathroom.

As a result of the guidance’s reversal, the Education Department has a stopped investigating civil rights complaints from transgender students fighting for bathroom access.

“Title IX protects trans people, and that’s what courts have been saying for years,” said Josh Block, the lead lawyer on Grimm’s case. “Even though this administration wants to try to rollback protections, they can’t change what the law says.”

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