MILWAUKEE, Wisc. — A federal judge has issued a temporary injunction against a Wisconsin school district, ordering officials to allow a female student who identifies as a boy to use the boys’ restroom while her case moves forward in court.
“There’s no question that Ash has already suffered harm and has had physical repercussions from the policy as well as emotional repercussions,” U.S. District Judge Pamela Pepper, nominated to the bench by Barack Obama, wrote on Tuesday.
As previously reported, Ashton Whitaker, 16, sued the Kenosha Unified School District No. 1 and Superintendent Sue Savaglio-Jarvis in July for being denied use of the boys’ restroom and for continuing to be referred to by her feminine name. Her attorneys contend the acts violate Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
Whitaker’s complaint, filed by the Transgender Law Center and Relman, Dane and Colfax PLLC, alleges that officials at Tremper High School told her that she must either use the girls’ restroom or a single occupancy restroom in the school office.
The following year, she surreptitiously began using the boys’ restroom, but was spotted by a teacher months later and again instructed to use the girls’ restroom or the lavatory in the office.
Whitaker then sought to avoid using the restroom at all at school, but said that limiting her fluids caused medical issues. She continued, however, to use the boys’ restroom at school in defiance of the district policy.
In July, she filed suit against the district to gain entry into her preferred restroom.
“My peers and many of my teachers know me as a boy, and have been incredibly supportive,” Whitaker said in a statement released by the Transgender Law Center. “But the school administrators have made my life miserable every school day since this spring, when they told me I could no longer use the boys’ restrooms, which I’d been using with the support of my classmates for months.”
The district sought to have the suit dismissed, asserting that Title IX does not apply to those who struggle with gender dysphoria, but rather entails discrimination in education programs based on a person’s sex.
But Judge Pepper rejected the request for dismissal on Monday, opining that Whitaker’s case met the standard for a Title IX claim. The following day, she placed a temporary injunction on the school’s restroom policy while Whitaker’s suit moves forward in court.
“For the first time this year, I feel like I can actually make it through my senior year of high school just like any other boy in my class,” Whitaker said in a statement. “It’s awful going to school every day with the constant stress and stigma from being segregated from my peers and from administrators watching my every move just because of who I am.”
But the Kenosha Unified School District vowed to appeal both decisions.
“The district is disappointed with the court’s decision to grant an injunction. Nevertheless, the district is bound by the court’s order,” district attorney Ronald Stadler remarked in a statement. “This order only affects the plaintiff in this case and the district will continue with all policies and procedures that were in place prior to the case for all other students. The district, like many others in the nation, looks forward to the final decision in this case.”
Whitaker had previously fought her school district for prohibiting her from running for prom king. Officials relented in the matter.