Court order on transgender bathrooms may increase requests

A recent federal court order against a Virginia school district may increase requests from parents of transgender students for access to restrooms corresponding to the student’s gender identity.

The ruling said the Gloucester County School Board’s transgender bathroom ban against a former student violated the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause and Title IX, which is the federal policy that protects against gender-based discrimination. The board’s policy had required, Gavin Grimm, a transgender male who has since graduated high school, to use girls’ restrooms or private restrooms.

The court also ordered the school board to update Grimm’s official school transcript to identify him as a male.

″(T)here is no question that the Board’s policy discriminates against transgender students on the basis of their gender noncomformity,” U.S. District Judge Arenda Wright Allen wrote.

“Under the policy, all students except for transgender students may use restrooms corresponding with their gender identity,” Wright wrote. “Transgender students are singled out, subjected to discriminatory treatment, and excluded from spaces where similarly situated students are permitted to go.”

KASB Assistant Executive Director of Legal Services Angie Stallbaumer said Kansas school districts are already reporting requests to provide restroom access based on gender identity.

“This is a high profile case, and our districts may receive questions about policy on or treatment of transgender students and staff in the days to come,” Stallbaumer said.

She added: “Although this case is not controlling in our jurisdiction, it is likely courts in our jurisdiction will take it under consideration in ruling on similar cases. Whether our member boards have expanded their nondiscrimination policies to provide specific protections to students based on gender identity or not, we recommend that district staff and boards take care to thoughtfully consider and act upon requests for accommodations by transgender youth and to run complaints based on gender identity through the board of education’s sexual harassment and discrimination complaint policies’ procedures.”

Judge Allen’s ruling joins others that have been favorable to transgender students in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, according to The Associated Press. But differing policies are still in place in schools across the country, said Harper Jean Tobin, policy director for the National Center for Transgender Equality, speaking last month with the AP.

Gary McCaleb, senior counsel for the conservative Christian group Alliance Defending Freedom, said the issue is far from resolved.

Grimm’s lawsuit in Virginia became a federal test case when it was supported by the administration of then-President Barack Obama and scheduled to go before the U.S. Supreme Court in 2017.

But the high court hearing was canceled after President Donald Trump rescinded an Obama-era directive that students can choose bathrooms corresponding with their gender identity. The Supreme Court returned the case to lower courts to reconsider.

The Gloucester County School Board has the option of appealing the case to a federal appeals court and possibly to the Supreme Court.

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