Last week, U.S. District Court Judge Arenda Allens ruled in favor of former-high school student Gavin Grimm by refusing to dismiss his case against the Gloucester County School Board over the right of transgender students to use bathrooms that corresponds to their gender identity. Grimm, a Virginia teen who has been waging this court battle for over four years, reports ‘an incredible sense of relief’ at the federal decision.
Grimm’s case claimed that by barring him from the men’s restroom, the school violated both Title IX, which bars discrimination on the basis of sex, and the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, which prohibits states from refusing equal protection of its laws to all citizens.
President Obama had issued a Dear Colleague letter during his administration clarifying that education equity under Title IX protects transgender students’ access to whichever restroom corresponds with their gender identity. In February 2017 however, the Trump administration rescinded that assertion, claiming that the Obama administration had not sought proper legal analysis or provided appropriate explanation for why these protections were guaranteed under Title IX. Following that rescission, the Supreme Court announced in March 2017 that they would no longer hear Grimm’s case, sending it back to the lower court for further consideration in light of the Trump administration’s decision.
The school board used this Trump administration decision to claim that Grimm’s request for fair treatment on the grounds of gender identity was invalid under Title IX. Judge Allen disagreed, however, calling the argument ‘resoundingly unpersuasive’ and ruling that the single person bathroom policy implemented by the school had resulted in ‘sex stereotyping violations of the law.’ The legal counsel will now have 30 days to arrange a settlement conference. Grimm’s will head to college in the fall, where he hopes to continue the battle for transgender rights in education.
Almost a year ago, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a Wisconsin school district violated Title IX when they prevented a transgender student from using the boys’ bathroom, setting an important precedent.
Despite numerous court rulings affirming transgender students’ rights under Title IX, the Department of Education announced in February of this year that they would no longer investigate or take action to protect transgender students who are denied access to restrooms that correspond with their gender identity.
According to the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, approximately 150,000 teenagers 13 to 17 identify as transgender.
Media Resources: NY Times 5/22/18 ; BBC News 5/23/15 ; Feminist Majority Foundation 3/6/17, 6/7/17, 2/12/18