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“Here We Go Again:” Gloucester County Schools Appeal Gavin Grimm’s Court Victory

Grimm has taken his case for transgender rights to the highest court in the land, and back. Now it looks like he might have to do it again.

Marilyn Drew Necci | June 5, 2018

Is this depressingly protracted legal saga ever going to end? Only a week after we reported to you that Gloucester County high school student Gavin Grimm achieved victory in his court case over his right to use the correct bathroom at school, we can now tell you that Gloucester County School Board has once again appealed the decision. This whole ring-around-the-rosy is starting up again, and as sick of it as we all are, I can’t imagine anyone’s sicker of it than Gavin Grimm himself.

“Here we go again,” he captioned a Facebook post acknowledging the Gloucester County School Board appeal. I couldn’t have said it better myself. Considering that Grimm originally filed suit three years ago, and has seen his case pushed up to the highest court in the land, then back down to the District Court level, it seems like some sort of dystopian nightmare that the case appears on the way up through the chain of courts once again.

Grimm had previously taken the case to the Supreme Court level in 2017, but the change to Title IX enforcement guidelines handed down by Donald Trump’s administration cast his case into doubt. Under the Obama-era guidance to interpret Title IX discrimination laws applying to “sex” as also relating to gender identity, Grimm’s case had been strong — indeed, the Obama administration had filed briefs on his behalf. But once the Trump adminstration rescinded the Obama-era  Title IX guidelines, the Supreme Court felt that there needed to be an additional review at the Appeals Court level to determine if the Grimm’s rights were still protected under the Civil Rights Act.

Then, in an additional twist, the Fourth Circuit Court Of Appeals decided that, in light of Grimm’s graduation from Gloucester County schools in summer 2017, the US District Court needed to rule on whether Grimm still had standing to pursue the case. Their thought was that, without his actually being a student in the schools anymore, he couldn’t convincingly argue that where he was or was not allowed to use the bathroom in the school system mattered to his life.

While at the time, it seemed that Grimm’s case had returned to the lowest level of the Federal Court system to die, he received the first pleasant surprise in a long time when he was handed a victory by the US District Court’s Eastern Court Of Virginia last week. Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen specifically ruled against the School Board’s request that she dismiss the case due to Grimm not having sufficient standing to continue pursuing it, and ordered the Gloucester County School Board to settle with Grimm.

The appeal filed by the School Board late last week moves away from the question of standing to directly challenge Grimm’s rights under Title IX. The Board’s attorney, David Corrigan, argues in the appeal that Title IX does not protect the right of transgender students to use the correct bathrooms, and that the School Board’s policy to require students to use the bathroom aligned with their “biological sex,” aka birth assignment, is constitutional.

Gavin Grimm’s attorney, Joshua Block of the ACLU, greeted the appeal with confidence, telling the Washington Post, “The vast majority of courts have already made clear that these discriminatory and harmful policies violate Title IX. We’re confident that the 4th Circuit would agree.” Indeed, with the District Court ruling agreeing that Grimm continues to have standing in the case despite graduation, and that Title IX protections still apply despite the Trump-initiated change in guidelines, the strongest arguments against Grimm’s victory have now been defeated.

All that remains now is to see if the US Court of Appeals — and, in all likelihood, the Supreme Court too, eventually — will agree. GayRVA will continue to monitor the situation and keep you posted on the latest developments. Til then, fingers crossed!

Image via ACLU