The protracted legal battle to determine whether a transgender student in Virginia could use the boys’ restroom at his high school returned to court Tuesday, the latest turn in a case that has become a touchstone in the fight for transgender students’ rights.
During a morning hearing in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, attorneys for Gavin Grimm — a former student at Virginia’s Gloucester High — attempted to convince a judge that Grimm’s constitutional rights were violated when he was denied access to the boys’ restroom.
On the other side, lawyers for the Gloucester County School Board argued that gender is not a “societal construct” and that Grimm has not undergone gender reassignment surgery and should not be allowed to use the male restroom. In 2014, the school board mandated that students use restrooms according to their “biological genders.”
David Corrigan, attorney for the school board, and William “Jarret” Lee, the school board chair, declined to comment.
Grimm sued in 2015, saying the school board’s rule violated Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in schools that receive federal funding. Grimm, now 20, graduated from high school in 2017.
The Obama administration supported Grimm, submitting briefs in the teen’s favor and arguing that the school system’s restroom rule violated Title IX. A Richmond appeals court deferred to the Obama administration’s interpretation of the federal law in 2016 when it ruled in Grimm’s favor.
The school system, about 60 miles east of Richmond, appealed to the Supreme Court, which was scheduled to hear the case in the spring of 2017. But the nation’s highest court canceled a hearing after President Trump revoked an Obama administration rule that said students could use the restroom that corresponds with their gender identity.
That put the case back Tuesday in the chambers of Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen, who has ruled in Grimm’s favor in the past.
Joshua Block, a senior attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union who is representing Grimm, said he wants the court to recognize that the school board violated the student’s constitutional rights. Grimm’s attorneys also want the county to change the gender on his high school transcript to male — it is currently listed as female — and ensure that he can use the male bathroom during alumni events.
Grimm’s birth certificate lists him as a male, and a Virginia court order in 2017 declared that he is a male.
“There is tremendous value in the court recognizing that what happened to you is wrong, what happened to you is unconstitutional, it shouldn’t have happened,” Block said. “And that’s something the legal system has recognized for a long time.”
During Tuesday’s hearing, Block described the negative effects that the bathroom policy had on Grimm. The attorney also said that listing Grimm as a female on his high school transcript has presented logistical complications as Grimm pursues a college degree.
“There were things that have been brought up that reminded me of how painful this experience was,” Grimm, who was in the courtroom Tuesday, said in an interview. “But that, too, was positive because it reminded me of how far we have come and how fortunate I have been and how lucky that I have been able to participate in my civil liberties in this process.”
Attorneys expect the judge to issue a ruling in the coming weeks.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.