HLERK continues to follow the national litigation surrounding accommodating transgender students in the school setting. Most recently, we have followed a case out of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana concerning a transgender student’s request to use restrooms consistent with his gender identity. More specifically, the student who filed suit, J.A.W., is a student at North High School in Evansville, Indiana. His assigned gender at birth was female, but J.A.W. has identified as a male since eighth grade. During his junior year at North High School, J.A.W. requested to use the boys’ restrooms. The District responded that it would not allow J.A.W. to use the boys’ restrooms. As a result of this decision, J.A.W. filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging that the high school’s policy violates Title IX.

While the underlying lawsuit makes its way through the court system, the student filed a motion for a preliminary injunction, requesting that the court grant him the ability to use the boys’ restroom during the pendency of the litigation. The Southern District of Indiana ruled on the motion for preliminary injunction on August 3, 2018. Relying heavily on the Whitaker decision (previously reported), the court found that J.A.W. had a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of his underlying claim, that J.A.W. may suffer irreparable harm if not afforded the ability to use the boys’ restrooms during the pendency of the dispute, and finally, that the District failed to show it would suffer any harm if the injunction were issued. As a result, the District Court granted J.A.W. the ability to use the male restrooms during the litigation.

It is notable that this case was decided by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. While this court is not controlling in Illinois, it is within the Seventh Circuit, which does control in Illinois. Though the decision is not on the merits of the case, but rather is a preliminary decision, it speaks volumes to the views of lower courts within the Seventh Circuit relative to transgender student rights.

For your questions on accommodating transgender students, please contact Bennett Rodick or Kaitlin Atlas.