RICHMOND, Va. — A federal appeals court has ruled in favor of a Virginia girl who identifies as a boy who sued her school district out of her desire to use the men’s restroom at her high school.
As previously reported, Gavin Grimm, now 17, told reporters in December 2014 that she began using the men’s restroom after obtaining permission from the school principal when she expressed disapproval over being forced to use the nurse restroom.
“I’m not a girl. I’m not using the girl’s restroom,” Grimm stated. “So I said, ‘Hey, where can I use the restroom?’ … And so they said, ‘Use the nurse’s room,’ and at the time I was fine with that, because I was still afraid—I didn’t know how my peers would react. So, I didn’t want to push the envelope any further than I had to all at once.”
But she said that the option soon became a problem.
“The nurse’s office is at least a three minute walk from the class I have closest to it. It took a substantial amount of time out of my class time, and it was embarrassing,” Grimm said. “When you’re gone for 15 minutes at a time to use the bathroom, what are high schoolers gonna think? It’s humiliating and it’s alienating.”
So, the student asked the principal about the matter, who suggested that Grimm go ahead and use the men’s restroom since she identifies as a boy. But some of the parents of the male students soon learned about the allowance, and the issue turned up before the school district.
The district soon voted to approve a policy requiring students to utilize the restroom that correlates with their biological gender, or to use a private bathroom.
But in response, Grimm sued the Gloucester County School District with the aid of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in an effort to overturn the policy.
“By excluding Gavin—a transgender boy—from the boys restrooms because the school board does not deem him to be ‘biologically’ male, the school board, under color of state law, has treated and continues to treat Gavin differently from similarly situated students based on his gender,” the suit asserted.
Last September, District Court Judge Robert Doumar, appointed to the bench by then-President Ronald Reagan, ruled against Grimm, disagreeing with the ACLU that the district had violated Title IX with its restroom policy.
“Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex and not on the basis of other concepts such as gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation,” Doumar wrote.
The ACLU appealed the decision to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled 2-1 in favor of Grimm this week by pointing to the Obama administration’s recent interpretations of the federal statute.
“At the heart of this appeal is whether Title IX requires schools to provide transgender students access to restrooms congruent with their gender identity,” the three-judge panel wrote. “We conclude that the department’s interpretation of its own regulation . . . as it relates to restroom access by transgender individuals, is . . . to be accorded controlling weight in this case.”
The court asked Doumar to rehear Grimm’s complaint that the district policy violated Title IX in light of how the U.S. Department of Education views the federal statute. As previously reported, the Department recently forced a school district in the Chicago area to accommodate a male student who desired to use the girls’ locker room because of his gender identity.
The U.S. Department of Justice had filed a statement of interest in Grimm’s case. It applauded the move.
“We are pleased with the Fourth Circuit’s decision, which agreed with the position that the United States advocated in its brief,” the department wrote in a statement.
But others expressed concern.
“Protecting students’ privacy while using the restroom, showers, or locker rooms and not forcing them to share intimate settings with members of the opposite sex is not only legal, it’s an important duty of officials who watch over our children,” wrote the religious liberties organization Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).
“Title IX, the federal law that this lawsuit cites in its attempt to overturn the school district’s policy, does just the opposite of what the ACLU is arguing: Title IX specifically authorizes schools to have separate restrooms and locker rooms for boys and girls,” it continued. “The policy is good because it accommodates students who aren’t comfortable using facilities designated for their biological sex without neglecting the established right of children to bodily privacy and safety.”