Trans student receives $800k payout from Wisconsin school who tried to impose bathroom ban
A Wisconsin school district has been ordered to pay out $800,000 after a transgender student sued the school for banning him from using the bathroom that corresponded with his gender identity.
The ruling comes after the Kenosha Unified School Board voted to drop the appeal, which would have been heard in the Supreme Court, in favour of paying the settlement.
Ron Stadler, the attorney for the school district, said that the decision to drop the case was purely economic and did not mean that they believed trans student should be given access to the facilities that correspond with their gender identity.
However, the case will set precedent for future lawsuits concerning the same issue.
Stadler added that he believed the discriminatory policies held by the school “have an excellent argument”.
He said: “If you look at it in terms that you’ve got these escalating costs, you’ve got a good argument, but not an absolute argument. The attorneys’ fees drive it.”
The policies that Stadler referred to included forcing Whitaker and other trans students to wear bright green wristbands to signify his gender identity and enable his bathroom usage to be policed.
Whitaker described himself in a statement from the Transgender Law Center as “deeply relieved that this long, traumatic part of my life is finally over and I can focus on my future and simply being a college student.”
The win was “empowering,” he said, because it “made me feel like I can actually do something to help other trans youth live authentically. My message to other trans kids is to respect themselves and accept themselves and love themselves. If someone’s telling you that you don’t deserve that, prove them wrong.”
The decision to drop the lawsuit came after a district judge issued an injunction which made the school give access facility to trans students.
The opinion, issued by the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, told Kenosha Unified School District in Wisconsin that it had negatively affected student plaintiff Ash Whitaker with its policy.
Following the initial hearing, Ash’s mother Melissa Whitaker said: “There’s still a lot of hate in the world, a lot of misunderstanding, definitely; but there’s still a lot of hope, and that’s what we kind of want to come away with.
“We feel very positive about how it went, how things have been going.”
Ash’s attorney, Joseph Wardenski, said: “Now, as more and more transgender people feel comfortable living consistent with their gender identity in their lives and at school, it’s maybe not surprising that we’re seeing these cases, but we hope that trans people in schools and elsewhere will be able to be respected for who they are.”
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Ash, who studies Biomedical Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, came out as trans during his freshman year in high school, according to the lawsuit.
He has had hormone treatments, and notes from his doctors identify him as a male, but he has not yet had gender reassignment surgery.
The district requires students to use the bathroom which matches the gender on their birth certificate.
The news followed the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear the case of Virginian trans teen Gavin Grimm, in light of the Trump administration’s removal of key protections.
Grimm’s school ordered him to use a toilet corresponding to his “biological gender.”