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Transgender teen gets ‘permanent’ access to boys’ locker room in legal settlement

ST MICHAELS, MD - Max Brennan, 16,  filed a lawsuit when he was prohibited from using the boys’ restroom and locker room at his school.
ST MICHAELS, MD - Max Brennan, 16, filed a lawsuit when he was prohibited from using the boys’ restroom and locker room at his school. (Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post)
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A transgender teenager seeking access to the boys’ locker room has reached a legal settlement with his school system on Maryland’s ­Eastern Shore.

Under the agreement announced Monday, 16-year-old Max Brennan will have “permanent” access to the restrooms, locker rooms and other facilities designated for boys at his school in St. Michaels.

Brennan and his parents initially sued Talbot County Public Schools after officials insisted he use a private, unisex bathroom or the girls’ restrooms and locker room to change for gym class.

The settlement resolves the case without a finding of liability, but in the agreement, the school system acknowledged “the likelihood of liability” in light of a judge’s ruling in the case.

In March, U.S. District Judge George L. Russell III of Baltimore declined to dismiss the case and said transgender students cannot be barred from school restrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity. The ruling was the first to find that Maryland’s constitution includes protections for transgender people.

“Because of Max, Maryland school districts are now on notice that subjecting students who are transgender to separate and unequal treatment is illegal, pure and simple,” Brennan’s lawyer Jennifer Kent, managing attorney with FreeState Justice, said in a statement Monday.

Battle over transgender student rights moves to high school locker rooms

After the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit sided with another transgender teen, Gavin Grimm in Virginia, in his battle to use the boys’ restroom, the Talbot County, Md., superintendent announced that the school board had to follow the court’s directive. That allowed Max to use the boys’ restrooms but not the locker room.

Gavin Grimm just wanted to use the bathroom. He didn’t think the nation would debate it.

After the March ruling from the judge in Baltimore, the superintendent told the Brennans that Max could use the boys’ locker room. The letter said the school board was granting access voluntarily, not settling the legal case or making the formal policy change.

The settlement announced Monday provides the guarantee Max was seeking.

“Bringing this lawsuit has been a long journey that I hope will be able to help other transgender students,” Brennan said in a statement. “I couldn’t be happier with how everything turned out.”

Edmund J. O’Meally, an attorney for the Talbot County schools, said Monday that the board is “very pleased that the matter has been amicably resolved.”

He declined to comment on the implications for other students who may want to use the locker room that matches their gender identity, and referred to an earlier statement from Schools Superintendent Kelly L. Griffith.

In a previous email, Griffith said the board would be making decisions about locker room access “on a case by case basis in our school system based upon thoughtful discussions with students and their families.”

The board “recognizes that gender identity issues involve serious and important considerations for individual students and their families. We recognize that no two students are alike.”

The two sides declined to comment on a separate confidential agreement related to costs and attorneys’ fees.

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