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