Transgender student wins school bathroom appeal

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Gavin Grimm

RICHMOND, Va. — A transgender student who challenged Gloucester High School after he was denied access to the boys’ bathroom won his appeal in the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. Gavin Grimm was born a female, but has the gender identity of a male.

In 2015, the Gloucester County School Board voted six-to-one to deny Grimm’s request for permission to use the boys’ bathroom at his school, after allowing him to use it for about seven weeks.

School officials said they made the decision after they received complaints from dozens of parents uncomfortable with Grimm using the boys’ restroom.

The school then built several unisex private restrooms for all students to use.

The ACLU defended Grimm, and other transgender students, and argued those students deserved to use which ever restroom and locker room was consistent with their gender identity.

Last fall, a U.S. District judge ruled in favor of the school’s action, dismissing Grimm’s Title IX claim because “Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex and not on the basis of other concepts such as gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation.”

Wednesday, a federal court of appeals ruling was made public that questioned that logic. The case was sent back down to the district court for reevaluation.

Because we conclude the district court did not accord appropriate deference to the relevant Department of Education regulations, we reverse its dismissal of G.G.’s Title IX claim. Because we conclude that the district court used the wrong evidentiary standard in assessing G.G.’s motion for a preliminary injunction, we vacate its denial and remand for consideration under the correct standard. We therefore reverse in part, vacate in part, and remand the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

“I feel so relieved and vindicated by the court’s ruling,” Grimm said in a statement released by the ACLU. “Today’s decision gives me hope that my fight will help other kids avoid discriminatory treatment at school.”

Family Foundation of Virginia president Victoria Cobb disagreed with the ruling. She said society cannot function properly without basic, social norms like male and female.

“The social chaos that would ensue from ignoring biological reality will inevitably bring tremendous harm to our children and limit freedom, not expand it,” she said. “Hopefully, as this case proceeds, a reasonable judge or court will step in and reaffirm that our children have the dignity of basic privacy rights in bathrooms and showers. Anything short of that will put vulnerable children at tremendous emotional, physical and developmental risk.”

Earlier this year, Grimm said the battle was about much more than using a certain restroom.

“I’m banned from a gender specific place and it is a big issue for me, this is one way the school is saying, we do not believe you are legitimate, and that is a big deal to me,” he said.