RICHMOND, Va. — A federal judge in Virginia has ordered a local school board to allow a female student who identifies as male to use the the boys’ restroom at her public high school.
As previously reported, Gavin Grimm, now 17, told reporters in December 2014 that she began using the boys’ 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.”
The student therefore 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 board.
Due to the concerns of parents, the board 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 Board 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 board 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 in April 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.”
It then sent the case back to Doumar, who was instructed to rule in light of how the U.S. Department of Education views the federal statute. The U.S. Department of Justice had filed a statement of interest in Grimm’s case as well.
On Thursday, Doumar issued an injunction in favor of Grimm while her case moves forward, requiring the Gloucester County School board to allow Grimm to use the urinals in the boys’ restroom.
“This court … hereby orders that Gloucester County School Board permit the plaintiff, G.G., to use the boys’ restroom at Gloucester High School until further order of this court,” Doumar wrote.
The order is limited to the restroom and does not include locker room use or any other similar facilities.
“I am elated to hear that I’ll be able to attend my senior year of high school with my full rights restored,” Grimm said in a statement released by the ACLU. “After nearly two years of humiliation and intense struggle, equality has finally prevailed. Now hopefully other transgender people will not have to face this type of discrimination.”
The board plans to appeal the ruling to the United States Supreme Court.
“The school board understands the implications of the order and will continue to defend its reasonable and nondiscriminatory solution to this issue at the Supreme Court and trial court levels,” a spokesperson said in a statement on Friday.