Court Finds Student Rights Were Violated By Denying Access to Restroom Facilities Based on Gender Identity

In Gavin Grimm v. Gloucester County School Board, transgender student Gavin Grimm sued the Gloucester County School Board to gain access to restroom facilities that aligned with his gender identity. On August, 9 2019, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia held that Gloucester High School violated Grimm’s Title IX and 14th amendment rights by denying him access to restroom facilities that aligned with his gender identity.

As previously reported in The Extra Mile, Grimm is a transgender student born a biological female. After initially receiving permission to use male facilities at Gloucester High School in Virginia, the School Board amended its bathroom access policy to limit access based on biological gender only.

Grimm filed a motion for a preliminary injunction against the School Board’s policy in 2015, citing a violation of his rights under Title IX and requesting access to male facilities. The court denied the request and dismissed Grimm’s complaint. Grimm filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which overturned the lower court’s decision in 2016. The Gloucester County Board of Education filed a Writ of Certiorari and the U.S. Supreme Court stayed the injunction issued by the Court of Appeals.

In 2016, the U.S. Court granted the Writ and indicated that it would review the Fourth Circuit’s decision, planned for early 2017. However, the Trump administration communicated a roll back of previous guidance of transgender student protections under Title IX, causing the Supreme Court to send the case back to the Fourth Circuit in light of those changes.

In 2017, Grimm graduated from high school. No longer a student at Gloucester High School, he withdrew his motion for a preliminary injunction and amended his complaint for nominal damages and a declaration by the Board of Education that his rights had been violated under Title IX and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. The complaint also sought an injunction to allow Grim to use male facilities should he visit District property as an alumni.

On July 23, 2019, the District Court denied the School Board’s request to dismiss.  In finding for Grimm, the District Court Judge, Judge Allen, rejected the Board’s claim that allowing transgender students to use facilities aligned with their gender identity caused privacy concerns for other students. She noted that the Board’s policy caused harm to Grimm by making him feel “stigmatized and isolated.” She also stated in her decision that “the perpetuation of harm to a child stemming from unconstitutional conduct cannot be allowed to stand.”

Because Grimm is no longer a student at Gloucester High School, the court was unable to order the Board to amend its policy. However, other transgender students may find success in referencing the ruling in the Grimm case as they seek access to facilities based on gender identity in the Fourth circuit.

On August 19, 2019, the School Board filed its motion to appeal Judge Allen’s decision.

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