Prompted by a case out of Gloucester County, a Virginia court has ruled that federal law does not allow transgender students to be forced to use separate restrooms.
On Tuesday, a federal judge ordered the Gloucester County School Board to schedule a settlement conference with 19-year-old transgender student Gavin Grimm, who sued the school division in 2015 after being forced to use restrooms that did not align with his gender identity.
“I feel an incredible sense of relief,” Grimm said in a prepared statement. “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.”
The settlement conference was ordered Tuesday after the judge denied a motion by the Gloucester County School Board to dismiss the case, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia.
The court held that Title IX and the U.S. Constitution protect transgender students from being excluded from common restrooms that align with their gender identity, the release said.
“The Sixth and Seventh Circuits have since held that excluding boys and girls who are transgender from the restrooms that align with their gender identity may subject them to discrimination on the basis of sex under Title DC, the Equal Protection Clause, or both,” Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen wrote in Tuesday’s court order.
Grimm attended Gloucester High School from September 2013 through June 2017, when he graduated. Grimm was born physically female but identifies as male.
Grimm legally changed his first name to Gavin by the time he began his sophomore year in high school and began using male pronouns, using men’s restrooms and wearing clothing and a hairstyle “consistent with other males,” according to Tuesday’s court order.
Medical providers wrote letters stating he was receiving treatment for gender dysphoria and should be treated as a male in “all respects,” including restroom use.
After seven weeks of using the boys’ restrooms in 2014, which had be approved by the principal and superintendent, several adults learned Grimm was using the male restrooms and voiced their concern.
Following school board meetings, the high school principal informed Grimm he could no longer use the boys’ restrooms but could use newly-installed, single-person restrooms.
Over the next two years, Grimm began hormone therapy, obtained a Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles identification card listing his gender as male and his birth certificate was changed to male.
Despite the changes, Grimm was still not able to use the boys’ restrooms per school board policy, the order reads.
In July 2015, Grimm sued the school, alleging the school board’s policy of assigning students to restrooms based on their biological sex violated the Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Several months later, the claim was dismissed by a judge, which Grimm appealed. On Tuesday, the judge denied the school board’s recent motion to dismiss the case.
“The district court’s ruling vindicates what Gavin has saying from the beginning,” ACLU Senior Staff Attorney Joshua Block said. “Federal law protects Gavin and other students who are transgender from being stigmatized and excluded from using the same common restrooms that other boys and girls use. These sorts of discriminatory policies do nothing to protect privacy and only serve to harm and humiliate transgender students.”