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Virginia school board will pay $1.3 million in settlement to transgender student Gavin Grimm, who sued over bathroom policy

Gloucester County student Gavin Grimm speaks during a news conference in Richmond  in March 2017.
Gloucester County student Gavin Grimm speaks during a news conference in Richmond in March 2017. (Steve Helber/AP)

The Virginia school board that refused to let transgender student Gavin Grimm use the boys’ restroom — spawning a lawsuit that almost reached the U.S. Supreme Court — has agreed to settle the case and will pay Grimm $1.3 million.

The money will cover Grimm’s attorney’s fees and other costs associated with Grimm’s discrimination case against the Gloucester County School Board, a suit that has stretched for a half-
dozen years and gained national attention.

The board’s decision to settle comes about two months after the Supreme Court declined to hear Grimm’s case, effectively handing a victory to Grimm over the Gloucester School Board.

A spokeswoman for the Gloucester County School Board acknowledged in a statement that the board had agreed to pay Grimm’s attorney fees but declined further comment.

Grimm did not respond to requests for comment.

In a statement, Grimm’s lawyer, Josh Block of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the $1.3 million — in combination with the Supreme Court’s rejection — mean that Grimm “has been fully vindicated.”

But, he added, “it should not have taken over six years of expensive litigation to get to this point.”

The case and the controversy date back to 2014, when Grimm, now in his 20s, was a high school sophomore who sought to use the boys’ restroom. The school board denied the teenager access, prompting such severe parent backlash that the school was forced to backtrack and instead allowed Grimm to use a restroom reserved just for him.

But that solution was far from adequate, as Grimm has previously said.

“Being forced to use the nurse’s room, a private bathroom, and the girl’s room was humiliating for me,” Grimm said in June. “Having to go to out-of-the-way bathrooms severely interfered with my education.”

Supreme Court will not hear transgender bathroom rights dispute, a win for Va. student who sued his school for discrimination

Grimm decided to sue the school board, winning the applause of transgender advocates nationwide and the support of the Obama administration. His suit then began working its way through the courts: Grimm won in U.S. District Court and at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit. The Supreme Court agreed then to take the case.

Then, Donald Trump won the presidency, shifting the federal government’s position to one of curtailing transgender rights. The justices opted to send Grimm’s case back to the lower courts.

When President Biden was elected, the administration’s view on transgender rights changed yet again. And in August 2020, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit ruled in Grimm’s favor, concluding that the Gloucester County School Board had discriminated against Grimm on the basis of sex and violated the 14th Amendment.

The school board appealed the 4th Circuit’s decision, meaning Grimm’s case was once again up for consideration by the Supreme Court. In late June, the Supreme Court decided not to hear Grimm’s case, although Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. said they would have accepted it.

As is customary, the Supreme Court did not give a reason for its rejection — which was widely interpreted as a major victory for transgender rights activists, given it allows the August ruling from the 4th Circuit court to stand.