Supreme Court won't say if trans teen can pick bath­room

Austin American-Statesman - - MORE OF TODAY’S TOP NEWS - By Mark Sher­man

The WASH­ING­TON — Supreme Court is leav­ing the is­sue of trans­gen­der rights in schools to lower courts for now af­ter back­ing out of a high-pro­file case Mon­day of a Vir­ginia high school stu­dent who sued to be able to use the boys’ bath­room.

The court’s or­der in the case of teenager Gavin Grimm means that at­ten­tion now will turn to lower courts around the coun­try that are grap­pling with rights of trans­gen­der stu­dents to use school bath­rooms that cor­re­spond to their cho­sen gen­der, not the one as­signed at birth.

The ap­peals court in Rich- mond, Vir­ginia, and other ap­pel­late panels han­dling sim­i­lar cases around the coun­try will have the first chance to de­cide whether fed­eral anti-dis­crim­i­na­tion law or the Con­sti­tu­tion pro­tects trans­gen­der stu­dents’ rights.

Mon­day’s ac­tion by a court that has been short-handed for more than a year comes af­ter the Trump ad­min­is­tra- tion pulled back fed­eral guid- ance ad­vis­ing schools to let stu­dents use the bath­room of their cho­sen gen­der, not the one as­signed at birth.

The jus­tices re­jected a call from both sides to de­cide the is­sue in a case that was dra­mat­i­cally al­tered by the elec­tion of Pres­i­dent Don- ald Trump.

Grimm’s case had been sched­uled for ar­gu­ment in late March. In­stead, a lower court in Vir­ginia will be tasked with eval­u­at­ing the fed­eral law known as Ti­tle IX and the ex­tent to which it ap­plies to trans­gen­der stu­dents.

Law­suits in­volv­ing trans- gen­der stu­dents are mak- ing their way through the courts in at least five other states: Illi­nois, North Carolina, Ohio, Penn­syl­va­nia and Wis­con­sin.

For Grimm, the or­der means that he prob­a­bly will grad­u­ate with the is­sue un­re­solved. Now, his wish to use the boys’ bath­room is blocked by a pol­icy of the Glouces­ter County school board. Al­though he won a court or­der al­low­ing him to use the boys’ bath­room at Glouces­ter High School, the Supreme Court put it on hold last Au­gust, be­fore the school year be­gan.

Talk­ing to re­porters by tele­phone Mon­day, Grimm said the sit­u­a­tion has added stress to the usual se­nior year wor­ries of ap­ply­ing to col­lege be­cause the “school board has sent this di­rect mes­sage ... that there is some­thing about you that de­serves to be seg­re­gated from the rest of the stu­dent body.”

The court case has drawn at­ten­tion from all over the world. Ap­ple, IBM and Mic- rosoft were among the 53 com­pa­nies that signed onto a brief filed last week urg­ing the court to rule in his fa­vor.

In Glouces­ter, a small, con­ser­va­tive Tide­wa­ter town, the is­sue has di­vided resi- dents and fel­low stu­dents.

Fel­low se­nior Shae­lyn McNeil said Grimm should be free to make changes, but she thinks his law­suit has “gone a lit­tle too far.”

Shelbi Stack­ler, a grad­u­ate of Glouces­ter High School, said Grimm should be al­lowed to use the boys’ bath­room be­cause “he doesn’t want to feel dif­fer- ent. He just wants to feel like a nor­mal boy.”

Joshua Block, the Amer- ican Civil Lib­er­ties Union at­tor­ney who rep­re­sents Grimm, said he re­mains per- suaded that courts ul­ti­mately will side with trans­gen­der stu­dents.

But, Block said, “This is dis­ap­point­ing for trans kids across the coun­try and for Gavin, who are now go­ing to be held in limbo for an­other year or two. But Ti­tle IX means the same thing to­day as it meant yes­ter­day. Lower courts al­ready have held that it pro­tects trans kids.”

In a state­ment re­layed by school board lawyer Kyle Dun­can, the board said it “looks for­ward to ex­plain­ing why its com­mon­sense re­stroom and locker room pol­icy is le­gal un­der the Con­sti­tu­tion and fed­eral law.”


Glouces­ter County High School se­nior Gavin Grimm, a trans­gen­der stu­dent, speaks dur­ing a news con­fer­ence as ACLU at­tor­ney Gail Deady lis­tens in Rich­mond, Va., on Mon­day.

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