A 16-year-old transgender student has filed a federal lawsuit against a Virginia school board, calling its policy on school restrooms discriminatory.
The lawsuit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of Gavin Grimm, contends that the policy violates the constitutional rights of the student, a rising junior at Gloucester High School, about 65 miles east of Richmond. In court documents filed in U.S. District Court in Newport News, the ACLU alleges that the policy discriminates against transgender students such as Gavin by forcing them to use “alternative” restrooms, not the communal facilities available to their peers.
The Gloucester County School Board’s “policy is deeply stigmatizing and needlessly cruel,” said Joshua Block, an ACLU lawyer who filed the lawsuit. “Any student, transgender or not, should be free to use single-stall restrooms if they want extra privacy. Instead of protecting the privacy of all students, the School Board has chosen to single out transgender students as unfit to use the same restrooms as everyone else.”
The case stems from a School Board decision in December that created a policy limiting the use of girls’ and boys’ bathrooms to students of “the corresponding biological genders.”
The 6-to-1 vote came amid pressure from parents and Gloucester residents who apparently were uncomfortable with Gavin’s use of the boys’ bathrooms at school. Grimm, who was born female but identifies as male, has been diagnosed with gender dysphoria, a condition that causes distress related to gender identity. The lawsuit says that after his diagnosis, Gavin used the boys’ facilities for seven weeks without incident until the school board’s decision.
“I just want to use the restroom in peace,” Gavin said in a statement. “Since the school board passed this policy, I feel singled out and humiliated every time I need to use the restroom.”
The ACLU filed a federal discrimination complaint with the Justice and Education departments in light of the School Board’s action. An investigation into those claims continues, according to the ACLU.
“High school is difficult enough for any student, without having the School Board publicly single him out for special restroom rules,” said Rebecca Glenberg, a lawyer with the Virginia chapter of the ACLU. “Gavin is an extraordinarily courageous boy who is filing this lawsuit not only to protect his own rights, but the rights of all of the transgender students who come after him. We are proud to represent him.”
The School Board did not return a request for comment.
James Parrish, executive director of the civil rights group Equality Virginia, said that all students deserve equal treatment.
“The job of our schools is to create an atmosphere of tolerance and respect, and part of that is ensuring that no child is stigmatized or treated differently because of who they are,” Parrish said. “Affirming children for who they are is simply the right thing to do, and rejecting a child’s deeply held sense of who they are can have very serious consequences. It is sad that this is even a debate.”