Judge rules that Virginia district violated rights of transgender student

Aug. 12, 2019
Gavin Grimm, now 20, sued the Gloucester County (Va.) district after it barred him from using the boys' restroom at Gloucester High.

A judge has ruled that a Virginia high school violated the constitutional rights of a transgender student by barring him from using the boys’ restroom.

The Washington Post reports thtat Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen found that the policy harmed Gloucester High School student Gavin Grimm, who felt “stigmatized and isolated” when his school required him to use separate restrooms. Grimm avoided using the restroom at school and developed a urinary tract infection and experienced suicidal thoughts.

Grimm, now 20 and a high school graduate, said the ruling sent the message that “discrimination is not legal in America.” 

“We deserve equal rights,” said Grimm, who is studying in California to be a teacher. “I’m going to be doing what I can to fight.”

Attorneys for the Gloucester County School Board argued in court that gender is not a “societal construct” and that Grimm has not undergone sex reassignment surgery and should not be allowed to use the boys’ restroom.

Grimm sued after the school board in 2014 mandated that students use restrooms aligned with their “biological genders.” The lawsuit asserted that the policy violated the 14th Amendment’s equal-protection clause and Title IX, the law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex in schools that receive federal money.

The case ascended to the Supreme Court, which was scheduled to hear it in spring 2017. But the justices returned the case to a lower federal court after the Trump administration reversed Obama-era guidance that directed schools to allow students to use restrooms that aligned with their gender identity.

Judge Allen heard arguments last month on the merits of the case. Sherejected the Gloucester system’s argument that allowing transgender students to use the bathroom matching their gender identities caused privacy concerns for other students.

“The perpetuation of harm to a child stemming from unconstitutional conduct cannot be allowed to stand,” Allen wrote in her decision. She said Grimm’s rights were violated “on the day the policy was first issued” and until he left Gloucester High.

The judge’s decision also directs the school system to change the gender on Grimm’s school records to male — he is currently listed as female.

Joshua Block, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union who is representing Grimm, says that because Grimm has graduated, the court doesn’t have the power to order the school to change its policy. But, he said, any student who is subjected to the rule will be able to “go right into court and point to this decision.”

“It’s going to have a major, positive impact, not only on the lives of trans kids in Gloucester County but throughout Virginia,” Block said.

About the Author

Mike Kennedy | Senior Editor

Mike Kennedy, senior editor, has written for AS&U on a wide range of educational issues since 1999.

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