U.S. Supreme Court Returns Transgender Student Case to Appellate Court in Light of Change in U.S. DOE Position

By March 14, 2017 News No Comments

The last few weeks have brought about significant changes in landscape of litigation and policies surrounding transgender students.

As we previously reported, on February 22, 2017, the United States Department of Justice and the United States Department of Education issued a Dear Colleague Letter withdrawing two specific letters issued during the Obama administration relative to interpretations of Title IX as applied to transgender students.

Following the issuance of the DCL, on March 6, 2017, the United States Supreme Court vacated the lower court’s judgment in the Gloucester County School Board v. G.G. case and remanded the case back to the Fourth Circuit for a new decision. The United States Supreme Court made the decision not to hear G.G.’s case in light of the February 22, 2017, Dear Colleague Letter, rolling back the Obama administration’s policies regarding transgender students.

The case will now go back to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals for a decision. Notably, the Fourth Circuit’s previous decision hinged on the Department of Education’s interpretation of Title IX as articulated in a January 7, 2015, letter from James Ferg-Cadima at the Office for Civil Rights and posited that the lower court had not given appropriate deference to the Department of Education’s interpretation of Title IX.  However, the James Ferg-Cadima letter was explicitly withdrawn in the February 22, 2017, Dear Colleague Letter.

Notably, the plaintiff in G.G., a transgender male, has undergone chest reconstruction surgery, a legal name change, G.G. reportedly has felt like a male since age two and has identified as male since approximately the age of two.

The State of Texas et al. v. United States et al. appeal in the Fifth Circuit was voluntarily dismissed on March 6, 2017, also in response to the February 22, 2017, Dear Colleague Letter. Furthermore, the State of Texas and other plaintiffs agreed to withdraw their case in Texas District Court.

Finally, in the local Students and Parents for Privacy v. District 211 et al. case, the United States government filed a Notice with the Court on February 23, 2017, regarding the Trump administration’s withdrawal of the Dear Colleague Letter. On March 6, 2017, the plaintiffs in the case filed a letter with the court informing them of the Supreme Court’s decision to vacate and remand the G.G. case.

HLERK will continue to closely monitor the developments in this area of the law. Please contact Michelle Todd or Kaitlin Atlas with your transgender student inquiries.

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