Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Federal judge sides with Gavin Grimm in transgender rights, bathroom ban case

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. (WYDaily/Courtesy of Virginia ACLU)
Gavin Grimm. (WYDaily/Courtesy of Virginia ACLU)

A federal court has determined a local school board discriminated against transgender student Gavin Grimm when it passed a policy limiting bathroom use to students’ biological sex, as well as when it refused to change information on Grimm’s school transcript to “male.”

The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia ruled Friday to award damages in the amount of $1 to Grimm in the case against the Gloucester County School Board, according to court documents.

The ruling is the latest update in a case spanning several years between Grimm, 20, and the school board. While Grimm, a 2017 Gloucester graduate, legally changed the gender on his birth certificate while a high school senior, the school board’s policy required him to use girls or private restrooms.

“Mr. Grimm ‘soon found it stigmatizing to use a separate restroom,’ however, and ‘began to feel anxiety and shame surrounding [his] travel to the nurse’s office,’” the ruling reads.

Because the private restrooms were often far from his classes and he avoided using the school restrooms, Grimm eventually developed urinary tract infections from waiting to use the bathroom.

A Virginia judge previously ruled Grimm was male, while the school board’s defense attorney argued late last month the ruling and male birth certificate do not make Grimm a man.

The American Civil Liberties Union said the policy and treatment violated Grimm’s rights under the Fourteenth Amendment and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which protects against gender-based discrimination — a judge agreed Friday in the ruling.

Grimm’s is a pivotal case in the nationwide discussion on transgender rights, including whether those who identify as transgender should or can use the bathrooms associated with their gender identity.

Those discussions are ongoing. During his tenure, President Donald Trump also rescinded Obama-era guidance advising students could choose which bathroom they use based on their gender identity.

The federal judge Friday also issued a permanent injunction forcing the school board to update Grimm’s official school records to reflect his gender identity and provide copies of those records to him within 10 days of the ruling.

The school board is also required to pay Grimm’s court costs and attorneys fees.

Grimm’s case began in 2014 when Grimm began identifying as male per a doctor’s order. The psychologist, Lisa Griffin, had experience treating transgender youth, and said Grimm should be allowed to represent as male and use the corresponding restrooms.

Gloucester High School’s principal eventually agreed to let Grimm use the boys bathrooms after Grimm’s mother said Grimm found using the nurse’s bathroom stigmatizing. 

There were no incidents involving other students during the weeks Grimm used the restroom.

The issue came to the school board after adult members of the community learned a transgender boy was using the male restrooms.

After the complaints, the school board introduced a policy barring students from using any gender-specific restroom that did not correspond with the student’s biological gender.

That policy was found to be discriminatory Friday.

Grimm now lives in California and has undergone chest reconstruction surgery and hormone therapy. He attends Berkeley City College and intends to transfer to a 4-year college.

Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing is the Assistant Editor at WYDaily. Sarah was born in the state of Maine, grew up along the coast, and attended college at the University of Maine at Orono. Sarah left Maine in October 2015 when she was offered a job at a newspaper in West Point, Va. Courts, crime, public safety and civil rights are among Sarah’s favorite topics to cover. She currently covers those topics in Williamsburg, James City County and York County. Sarah has been recognized by other news organizations, state agencies and civic groups for her coverage of a failing fire-rescue system, an aging agriculture industry and lack of oversight in horse rescue groups. In her free time, Sarah enjoys lazing around with her two cats, Salazar and Ruth, drinking copious amounts of coffee and driving places in her white truck.

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