ACLU files lawsuit for transgender teen over Gloucester County School’s bathroom policy
Gavin Grimm, a 15-year-old student in rural Gloucester County, Virginia, is in for the fight of his life.
Grimm (top image, via ACLU) is a transgender man, and the teen has been thrust into the spotlight as Virginia’s school boards address concerns for transgender students around the commonwealth.
Back in November of 2014, Grimm spoke before his local school board meeting to fight a policy which would force him to use a restroom aligning with his birth gender, not as the gender he currently identifies.
“I’m fighting for my right to use the correct restroom … the men’s restroom,” he told VA Beach’s WAVY at the time. “There have been some parents in the community, or rather adults, that have had a problem with this.”
In December, his school board voted 6-1 to force trans students to use restrooms matching their born gender.
But in a lawsuit filed today, the Virginia ACLU, the ACLU’s National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and HIV Project, and Grimm hope to have that rule changed.
“I just want to use the restroom in peace,” said Gavin in an ACLU press release. “Since the school board passed this policy I feel singled out and humiliated every time I need to use the restroom.”
Grimm and his family alerted his school to his gender dysphasia before he started his sophomore year. He’d been using the boy’s bathroom without issue until the school board, and parents from the community got involved.
“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. “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.”
The ACLU had filled a discrimination complaint shortly after the vote, and cited a Title IX rule which offers protections to transgender students, a point reaffirmed in a recent Department of Justice memo.
“High school is difficult enough for any student without having the school board publicly single him out for special restroom rules,” said Rebecca Glenberg, legal director of the ACLU of Virginia. “Gavin is an extraordinarily courageous boy who is filing this lawsuit not only to protect his own rights, but the rights of all of the transgender students who come after him. We are proud to represent him.”
Virginia LGBTQ activists have already thrown their support behind the lawsuit.
“Transgender students have the same needs as other students, and they must be given the same opportunity to succeed. The job of our schools is to create an atmosphere of tolerance and respect, and part of that is ensuring that no child is stigmatized or treated differently because of who they are,” said James Parrish of Equality Virginia in a release.
“Affirming children for who they are is simply the right thing to do, and rejecting a child’s deeply held sense of who they are can have very serious consequences. It is sad that this is even a debate.”
Gloucester County is not the only Virginia school board to vote such a policy in place. In March of this year, Stafford County put a similar rule in place, forcing students to use the restroom according to their born gender.
But there have been wins for trans students in the Commonwealth as well; last month in Fairfax County, the school board voted almost unanimously to allow students to use the bathroom according to the gender they identify with.
“In Fairfax County we are adamant about protecting all our kids,” said School Board Member at Large Ryan McElveen who said the policy was needed to protect some of Virginia’s most at-risk youth.
A copy of the complaint filed today can be found here.
Our staff of litigators and activists… are ready to fight against any encroachment on our cherished freedoms and rights.November 9, 2016
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