The Department of Justice today jumped into one Virginia transgender boy’s fight against discrimination in his public high school.
Gavin Grimm, 16, of Gloucester County, Va., was denied access to the boys’ bathroom at Gloucester County High School, despite self-identifying as a boy.
As The Advocate reported June 11, the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit on behalf of Grimm against his school district, seeking a court order requiring the school to allow him to use the boys’ restroom when the new school year begins.
The DOJ affirmed in Tuesday's court filing that Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 protects the right of transgender students to use the restroom that matches their gender identity.
“I just want to use the restroom in peace,” Grimm said in a press release earlier this month. “Since the school board passed this policy I feel singled out and humiliated every time I need to use the restroom.”
In its filing, the DOJ wrote, “The District denied him equal treatment and benefits and subjected him to discrimination based on sex in violation of Title IX … when it passed a policy banning his continued use of the boys' restrooms because the School Board did deem him to be 'biologically' male,' despite his use of those facilities without incident for seven weeks.
“Under Title IX, discrimination based on a person's gender identity, a person's transgender status, or a person's nonconformity to sex stereotypes constitutes discrimination based on sex. The term 'sex' as it is used in Title IX is broad and encompasses gender identity, including transgender status. ...
“Prohibiting a student from accessing the restrooms that match his gender identity is prohibited sex discrimination under Title IX. There is a public interest in ensuring that all students, including transgender students, have the opportunity to learn in an environment free of sex discrimination.”
The DOJ urged the court to “allow him to resume using the boys' restrooms at Gloucester High School when he returns for the first day of classes on September 8.”
Asaf Orr, staff attorney at the National Center for Lesbian Rights, issued this statement:
“We commend the Department of Justice for taking the steps necessary to uphold the promise of Title IX and ensure that transgender students are affirmed and supported in school. Allowing schools to discriminate by forcing transgender students to use a separate restroom is demeaning and exposes them to relentless harassment and abuse from peers. The federal government’s position is not only consistent with decades of legal precedent, but also the experiences of many school districts throughout the country that are implementing inclusive policies without incident. As those districts have learned, affirming a transgender student’s gender identity is an important part of creating a safe and inclusive school where all students can thrive.”
The ACLU argues that the school’s revised bathroom policy also violates the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
“The school board’s policy is deeply stigmatizing and needlessly cruel,” said Joshua Block, a senior staff attorney at the ACLU Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and HIV Project, in its press release earlier this month.
“Any student — transgender or not — should be free to use single-stall restrooms if they want extra privacy. Instead of protecting the privacy of all students, the school board has chosen to single out transgender students as unfit to use the same restrooms as everyone else.”
After Grimm started using the boys’ restroom, some parents and other residents of Gloucester County complained, resulting in the adoption of the policy last December, requiring transgender studies to use single-stall restrooms.
He is currently the only student in the school affected by the policy, which isolates him and subjects him to stigma, the suit argues. The ACLU asks that the policy be changed and that the school district pay damages to Grimm and his mother in an amount determined by the court.