Court Rules in Favor of Transgender School Bathroom Rights

by Kevin Schattenkirk

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Wednesday August 26, 2020

Buzzfeed reports that the US Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit ruled in a 2-1 decision that "schools cannot prohibit students from using the bathroom that matches their gender identity."

As the report states, this is:

... the latest development in the yearslong legal saga of transgender student Gavin Grimm, who was a teenager when he first took his Virginia school district to court in 2015 to enforce his right to use the boys' bathroom. Grimm, now 20 years old, has continued to press the case after graduating.

At the start of his sophomore year in high school, Grimm and his mother had informed the school that he wanted permission to use the boy's bathroom, and was able to do so for several weeks before it became a problem for some in the larger Gloucester community. The case is likely to head back to the US Supreme Court, which had agreed to hear the case in 2016 but sent it back to be heard in the lower court. Meanwhile, President Trump has continued to roll back rights and protections for LGBTQ+ people, and trans people in particular.

Ultimately, the 4th Circuit court rejected the argument put forward by the Gloucester County school board that their policy of strict bathroom access was a necessity in protecting student privacy. In the ruling, Judge Henry Floyd wrote:

"The proudest moments of the federal judiciary have been when we affirm the burgeoning values of our bright youth, rather than preserve the prejudices of the past. How shallow a promise of equal protection that would not protect Grimm from the fantastical fears and unfounded prejudices of his adult community."

"The Board's proposed policy was concocted amidst a flurry of emails from apparently concerned community members and adopted in the context of two heated Board meetings filled with vitriolic, off-the-cuff comments, such as referring to Grimm as a 'freak.' ... One would be hard-pressed to look at the record and think that the Board sought to understand Grimm's transgender status or his medical need to socially transition, as identified by his treating physician."

While David Corrigan, lead attorney for the Gloucester County school board, declined to comment for the story, Grimm — represented by the ACLU — said the ruling:

"is an incredible affirmation for not just me, but for trans youth around the country. All transgender students should have what I was denied: the opportunity to be seen for who we are by our schools and our government."

Kevin Schattenkirk is an ethnomusicologist and pop music aficionado.

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