A federal judge has ordered the Gloucester County School Board to settle with transgender student Gavin Grimm, almost four years after denying him bathroom access at his Virginia high school.
On Tuesday, a U.S. District court rejected the Board’s motion to dismiss Grimm’s lawsuit and ordered both sides to settle in the next 30 days.
The ruling affirms that transgender students are protected in bathrooms and locker rooms under Title IX, a departure from the Trump Administration which reversed Obama-era guidance affirming the rights of trans students in bathrooms and locker rooms.
Grimm has been fighting his case since 2014, when the Board instituted a policy mandating that students use restrooms according to their “biological gender.” The case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, but when Trump Administration rescinded the Obama-era protections, the Supreme Court punted the case back to the Circuit Court of Appeals.
During that fight, Grimm continued to be denied access to the boys’ room. He graduated high school last year without a resolution. He filed an amended complaint with the District Court, seeking damages for discrimination under Title IX.
The board asked to have that complaint dismissed.
But Judge Arenda Allen called the school board’s policy of drawing lines based on anatomy “unmanageable” and questioned how it would be applied to intersex people, people who had genital surgery and those whose genitals were injured in an accident.
“In Mr. Grimm’s situation, how would the Board have continued to implement the Policy after Mr. Grimm’s medical procedures?” Allen wrote. “Mr. Grimm had attained some secondary male physical sex characteristics after hormone therapy and chest reconstruction surgery. Accordingly, acts of discrimination on the basis of physiological sex certainly could have occurred.”
The American Civil Liberties Union, which represented Grimm, commended the ruling in a statement.
“The district court’s ruling vindicates what Gavin has been saying from the beginning,” said Joshua Block, senior staff attorney with the ACLU LGBT & HIV Project. “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.”
For Grimm, the ruling brought incredible relief, he said in a 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,” he said. “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.”
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