A federal judge has ruled that a school district violated a transgender student’s rights when it prevented him from using the bathroom which matched his gender identity.
Teenager Gavin Grimm was told by the Gloucester County School Board in Virginia to use the restroom which corresponded with his “biological gender” in 2014, despite having used a boys’ toilet for two months without incident.
The district asked Judge Arenda L. Wright-Allen at the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia to dismiss the case, but she refused.
Instead, the judge ruled that both Title IX – a federal law which bars sex discrimination in education – and the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution had been broken in blocking Grimm.
She also slammed the school board, telling the court: “The location of the bathrooms, coupled with the stigmatisation and physical and mental anguish inflicted upon Mr. Grimm, caused harm.”
Lawyers for Grimm, who is receiving assistance from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the school district were ordered to arrange a settlement conference within 30 days.
The ruling was the latest twist in a long-running saga.
A different district judge ruled in favour of the school board in 2015, but this was overturned in 2016 by the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.
This decision was made on the basis of legislation put in place by President Barack Obama which protected trans students from discrimination.
Last year, the Supreme Court sent the case back to the district courts after President Donald Trump’s administration removed these key protections.
Grimm, who has since graduated, was delighted with the landmark ruling.
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“I feel an incredible sense of relief,” he said in a statement issued through the ACLU.
“After fighting this policy since I was 15 years old, I finally have a court decision saying that what the Gloucester County School Board did to me was wrong and it was against the law.
“I was determined not to give up because I didn’t want any other student to have to suffer the same experience that I had to go through.”
Joshua Block, an ACLU senior staff attorney, said: “The district court’s ruling vindicates what Gavin has been saying from the beginning.
“Federal law protects Gavin and other students who are transgender from being stigmatised and excluded from using the same common restrooms that other boys and girls use,” he added.
“These sorts of discriminatory policies do nothing to protect privacy and only serve to harm and humiliate transgender students.”
The Human Rights Campaign also welcomed the decision, with legal director Sarah Warbelow saying: “No student should feel unsafe at school, regardless of gender identity.
“Transgender students are covered by Title IX and are entitled to the same rights and protections as every other student.
“With the Trump-Pence administration’s barrage of attacks on LGBTQ people in this country, including children, we are pleased that yet another federal court has reaffirmed legal rights and dignity of transgender people.”