U.S. Supreme Court Caves to Virginia School Board’s Last-Ditch Attempt to Discriminate Against Transgender Student

By Megan Clayton • August 3, 2016 • 4:54 pm

Today the United States Supreme Court granted a Virginia school board’s request to put on hold an appellate court ruling that effectively bars the school from discriminating against transgender students. The decision from the Supreme Court today places a temporary stay on the lower court ruling until the Court decides whether or not it will grant formal review to the case.

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On April 19 the United States Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit ruled in favor of Gavin Grimm, a transgender high school student who was prohibited from using the boys bathroom at Gloucester High School by the Gloucester County School Board. The 4th Circuit ruled that the school board’s policy was a clear violation of the federal Title IX, which prohibits discrimination in schools receiving federal financial assistance, and informed the school system that transgender students must be allowed to use facilities consistent with their gender identity.

The school board then appealed that decision, filing an emergency petition and requesting that the Supreme Court put the lower court’s ruling on hold until the case could be heard. The Supreme Court today accepted the school board’s request to temporarily stay the order, though it is still considering whether to accept the school board’s appeal. That decision likely won’t be made until this fall.

Kasey Suffredini, Freedom for All Americans chief program officer and director of the Transgender Freedom Project, explained why the Supreme Court should affirm the 4th Circuit ruling later this fall – and why there is no reason for the stay right now:

“It’s shameful that this school board is going to such great lengths and expense to single out a transgender student. These actions run contrary to what we all expect school administrators to do — create environments that are safe, welcoming and nurturing for every single student. Instead, a small group of individuals in Virginia appear bent on singling out Gavin and other transgender youth for harm and discrimination. It’s wrong, it’s dangerous and we hope that the Court recognizes the initial ruling of the Fourth Circuit.”

The school board’s request for a stay is an attempt to prevent Grimm from using the appropriate restrooms and facilities when he returns to school this fall. Because of the Court’s action today, he and other transgender students within the 4th Circuit’s jurisdiction—which includes Virginia, Maryland, South Carolina, West Virginia, and, most pressingly, North Carolina—won’t have any state-level protections against discrimination they may face from their schools when attempting to use the restrooms that match the gender they live every day during the upcoming school year.

The Court’s decision is an especially worrisome development for students in North Carolina, where the notorious House Bill 2 attempts to block transgender people—including transgender students—from using public restrooms simply because of who they are.

Anti-transgender laws and policies that limit students’ ability to use the restroom are wrong—and they have no place in our country. We’ll be monitoring the Court’s movement on this issue closely in the coming months.


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