Appeals Court Sends ‘Transgender’ Restroom Case Back to Lower Court to Determine if Matter Moot

Photo Credit: ACLU

RICHMOND, Va. — A federal appeals court has returned a case involving a Virginia girl who identifies as a boy and wanted to use the boys’ restroom at school back to the district court to determine whether the matter is moot since the student has now graduated from high school.

“[A] crucial threshold question arises in this appeal whether ‘one or both of the parties plainly lack a continuing interest’ in the resolution of this case such that it has become moot,” the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals wrote on Wednesday. “Because all of the prior litigation was conducted while Grimm was a student, the parties have presented us with nothing more than unsupported assertions regarding Grimm’s continued connection to his high school and the applicability of the school board’s policy.”

“Accordingly, we conclude that it is necessary to remand this case to the district court to determine, in the first instance, whether this case has become moot by reason of Grimm’s graduation—a resolution that will likely ‘require factual development of the record by the district court and possibly additional jurisdictional discovery,'” it stated.

The court sent the case to the lower court less than six months after the U.S. Supreme Court likewise remanded the matter back to the Fourth Circuit since the Trump administration withdrew the Obama-era directive on “transgender” restroom use in public schools.

As previously reported, the case centers around a Gloucester High School student who goes by the name Gavin Grimm. Three years ago, Grimm was directed to use the nurse’s restroom after she began identifying as a boy, but soon decided that she would rather use the boys’ restroom. Grimm is now a senior and will be graduating this summer.

“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 told reporters in 2014. “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 spoke to 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.

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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. 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.

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.

“Except as provided elsewhere in this part, no person shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any academic, extracurricular, research, occupational training, or other education program or activity operated by a recipient which receives or benefits from federal financial assistance,” the law reads.

“A recipient may provide separate toilet, locker room, and shower facilities on the basis of sex, but such facilities provided for students of one sex shall be comparable to such facilities provided for students of the other sex.”

The ACLU appealed the decision to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled 2-1 in favor of Grimm in April 2016 by pointing to the Obama administration’s interpretations of the federal statute. The Fourth Circuit then sent the case back to Doumar, who was instructed to rule in light of how the federal departments view the statute.

Doumar consequently ordered the board to allow Grimm to use the boys’ restroom.

The Gloucester County School Board then appealed the order to the U.S. Supreme Court, asserting that it will cause “irreparable harm to the board, to the school system and to the legitimate privacy expectations of the district’s schoolchildren and parents alike.”

Last August, the court granted the board’s request for an emergency injunction, and in October, it agreed to hear the case.

However, after the Trump administration rescinded the Obama-era restroom directives in February, the U.S. Supreme Court remanded the case back to the Fourth Circuit and also vacated the appeals court’s ruling, advising the panel to revisit the decision.

The matter is now back to square one in determining whether or not the case should even proceed or if it is moot since Grimm has graduated from high school.


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