Appeals Court: Schools Can’t Block Trans Students from Using the Proper Bathroom August 26, 2020

Appeals Court: Schools Can’t Block Trans Students from Using the Proper Bathroom

In some welcome legal news, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled today that schools can’t block transgender students from using the bathroom that matches their gender identity. It’s the latest ruling in a years-long battle fought by Virginia student Gavin Grimm with the help of the ACLU.

Grimm, who began expressing as male before his sophomore year of high school, and his mother asked permission from the district to use the boys’ bathroom. There was no issue for several weeks; it was only after some parents discovered what was happening that the Gloucester County School Board stepped in to prevent him from using the proper bathroom. He was told to use single-stall restrooms that were inconveniently located, a move that caused him physical problems and mental anguish down the road.

BuzzFeed’s Zoe Tillman writes:

In a 2–1 decision, the court rejected the Gloucester County school board’s argument that a policy prohibiting transgender students from using the bathroom that matched their gender identity was needed to protect student privacy. Such a policy amounted to sex-based discrimination in violation of the US Constitution’s equal protection guarantee and Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in federally funded education.

“The proudest moments of the federal judiciary have been when we affirm the burgeoning values of our bright youth, rather than preserve the prejudices of the past,” Judge Henry Floyd wrote. “How shallow a promise of equal protection that would not protect Grimm from the fantastical fears and unfounded prejudices of his adult community.”

I would also highlight this portion of the majority’s ruling, written by Judge Henry Floyd (an Obama appointee):

… the Board implemented a policy that treated Grimm as “questioning” his identity and having “issues,” and it sent him to special bathrooms that might as well have said “Gavin” on the sign. It did so while increasing privacy in the boys bathrooms, after which its own deposition witness could not cite a remaining privacy concern. We are left without doubt that the Board acted to protect cisgender boys from Gavin’s mere presence — a special kind of discrimination against a child that he will no doubt carry with him for life.

The case may not be over, though, since the school district could appeal to the Supreme Court. Grimm continues fighting this case “for nominal damages and a declaration that the Board violated his rights under Title IX and the Equal Protection Clause.” There’s also a request to block the Board from saying he can’t use the proper bathroom during alumni events.

Since conservatives will undoubtedly whine about this, keep in mind that this whole issue boils down to whether trans people are people. Grimm wasn’t asking for some special privilege. He wanted to just use the damn bathroom. But because of the irrational fears of the adults in the community, it’s taken several years, even beyond his graduation, for the Courts to recognize that simple request as a perfectly fair one.

(Image via the ACLU)

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