08:41, May 23 48 0 theguardian.com

2018-05-23 08:41:05
Virginia school board violated rights of transgender teen, judge rules

A federal judge on Tuesday sided with a transgender teen in Virginia who claims a school board violated his rights when it banned him from using boys’ bathrooms.

In a major victory for trans rights, US district court Judge Arenda Wright Allen declined the Gloucester county school board’s request to dismiss the case filed by former student Gavin Grimm.

She wrote that the board’s policies “singled out and stigmatized Mr Grimm” and ruled that he was protected by federal law.

The judge in Norfolk, Virginia, ordered lawyers for both sides to schedule a settlement conference in the next 30 days.

In a brief statement, the school board said it continues to believe that its handling of the matter “fully considered the interests of all students and parents in the Gloucester County school system”.

Grimm filed a lawsuit in 2015 after his school ordered him not to use the bathroom designated for males.

After the ruling, Grimm said he felt “an incredible sense of relief.”

“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.

Joshua Block, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney representing Grimm in the landmark case, said Grimm is seeking nominal damages from the school board and the admission that its bathroom policy was illegal.

“Maybe the school board will give up at this point or maybe they’ll want to keep appealing,” Block said. “But I do know that Gavin has, from the beginning, been so dedicated to this because he’s wanted to make sure other kids are protected.”

The case has continued on a circuitous path well after Grimm’s graduation in June 2017 from Gloucester high school, which is about an hour east of the state capital of Richmond.

A different federal judge initially sided with the school board in 2015. Then an appeals court ruled in Grimm’s favor, citing a directive issued by the Obama administration that said students can choose bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity.

The supreme court backed out of hearing the case after the Trump administration pulled back that guidance. Grimm’s case was sent back to district court.

In her 30-page opinion, Wright wrote that Grimm’s lawyers successfully argued that the school board violated his rights under the constitution’s equal protection clause as well as federal Title IX protections against gender-based discrimination. She wrote that the board’s argument “rings hollow” that it was protecting students’ privacy rights, including Grimm’s.

The judge noted that other courts have since made similar conclusions. She also noted that since Grimm filed his suit, his state identification card and his birth certificate now list him as being male.

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