Transgender Student Asks Appeals Court to Stop Virginia School’s Discriminatory Restroom Policy

ACLU Seeks Reversal of Lower Court Decision That Forces Trans Students to Continue Using Separate Facilities

Affiliate: ACLU of Virginia
October 21, 2015 10:30 am

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RICHMOND, Va. –Gavin Grimm, a transgender male student in Gloucester County, Virginia, today asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit to stop his school district from enforcing a discriminatory policy that segregates transgender students from their peers and requires them to use “alternative private” restroom facilities.

The American Civil Liberties Union and ALCU of Virginia, representing Gavin, brought the case against the Gloucester County School Board in June 2015 seeking an injunction for immediate relief. But in September, Senior U.S. District Judge Robert Doumar ruled against Gavin, keeping the discriminatory policy in place and dismissing Gavin’s claim under Title IX of the U.S. Education Amendments of 1972, a federal law prohibiting sex discrimination by schools. The appellate brief asks the Fourth Circuit to reverse that decision.

“We hope and expect that the Fourth Circuit will reverse the lower court’s ruling and reaffirm that Title IX and the Constitution protect transgender students from being singled out for different treatment simply because of who they are,” said Joshua Block, senior staff attorney in the ACLU’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Project. “School officials must treat all students equally and may not demean and stigmatize transgender students by relegating them to separate restrooms from their peers.”

In June, the Department of Justice filed a brief supporting Gavin in his sex discrimination claim, stating, “There is a public interest in ensuring that all students, including transgender students, have the opportunity to learn in an environment free of sex discrimination.”

Although the district court refused to grant Gavin the injunction that would have let him to use the boys’ restroom when school resumes, it has not yet ruled on whether Gavin’s constitutional claim under the Fourteenth Amendment can move forward.

“School has been back in session for almost two months and I’m still dealing with the day-to-day humiliation of being singled out from other students as a result of the school board’s policy,” said Gavin. “Even though this has been a long battle, I’m pushing forward because all transgender students in Virginia deserve to live fully as who they are.”

Gavin’s medical treatment for severe gender dysphoria requires that he socially transition in all aspects of his life. With permission from school administrators, Gavin used the boys’ restroom for almost two months at the beginning of his sophomore year without incident. But after receiving complaints from some parents and residents of Gloucester County, the school board adopted the new policy on December 9, 2014, by a vote of 6-1, despite warnings from the ACLU.

“We hoped that Gavin would get a fresh start at the beginning of the school year, and we are disappointed that will not happen,” said Gail Deady, the Secular Society Women’s Rights Legal Fellow at the ACLU of Virginia. “Gavin continues to suffer irreparable harm every day he is singled out for different treatment and forced to use separate restrooms from everyone else.”

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