School Board Will Petition Supreme Court To Decide If High School Girl Can Use Boys’ Bathrooms
A school district in rural, coastal Virginia will petition the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a federal appeals court ruling that would force the district to allow a female student to use boys’ bathrooms and locker rooms.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit granted a request by the Gloucester County School Board to suspend the court’s ruling, in order to give the board’s attorneys time to make their arguments to the Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari, reports The Washington Post.
The student at the center of the lawsuit, Gavin Grimm, attends Gloucester High School in Gloucester, Va.
In April, a three-judge panel 4th Circuit judges ruled — essentially — that the Gloucester school district cannot ban Grimm from boys’ bathrooms and locker rooms.
The reason school officials prevented Grimm from using facilities reserved for boys on campus is because Grimm was born a girl and by all accounts remains a girl.
However, in a 2-1 decision, the trio of judges held that the district and lower courts must follow the Obama administration’s interpretation of Title IX, which allows students who call themselves transgender to choose their own bathrooms. (RELATED: High School Girl Who Demands To Use Boys’ Bathroom Wins Federal Appeals Court Decision)
In making the case for a stay of the 4th Circuit’s ruling, lawyers for the Gloucester school board argue that the Obama administration has dramatically overreached by seeking to use Title IX “to do what Congress has not done — replace the term ‘sex’ with ‘gender identity’ in order to support an outcome unilaterally desired by the Executive Branch. This raises substantial questions concerning both federalism and separation of powers.”
“This case is one of national significance,” the school board’s attorneys wrote. “It directly affects every school district and college in this Circuit that receives federal funding and indirectly affects every such district and college in the United States.”
The Post has published the school board’s filing in its entirety.
The school board had previously proposed that Grimm, a girl, could use single-stall unisex bathrooms because her use of boys’ bathrooms and locker rooms violates the privacy rights of every boy at the school.
The school district’s “solution of providing three single-stall unisex restrooms that anyone could use was a practical, nondiscriminatory answer that met everyone’s interests and properly balanced the needs of transgender students with other students’ right to bodily privacy,” Gloucester school board chairman Troy Andersen said in a statement obtained by the Post.
The saga of Grimm’s insistence on using boys’ bathrooms and locker rooms despite the fact that she is a girl dates back to 2014.
In December 2014, by a 6-to-1 vote, the Gloucester school board refused to allow Grimm to use boys’ bathrooms and locker rooms. The board had received several complaints from dozens of irate parents because the 16-year-old female student had been using the boys’ facilities for seven weeks or so.
The school board chairman at the time, George (Randy) Burak, observed that other students use bathrooms and locker rooms in addition to Grimm.
“This issue is not about one student. Rather, it’s about all our students,” Burak said, according to area CBS affiliate WTKR.
To placate Grimm, the school district paid to build a number of unisex, single-person bathrooms for all students — including Grimm — to use.
Grimm was unsatisfied. With the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, she and her parents sued the school district under Title IX, a comprehensive 1972 federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of — biological — sex. (RELATED: ACLU Sues To Allow Girl To Use Boys Bathroom, Locker Rooms At Public High School)
“I just want to use the restroom in peace,” Grimm declared in a June 2015 ACLU press release obtained by the Washington Blade, America’s oldest gay-oriented newspaper. “Since the school board passed this policy I feel singled out and humiliated every time I need to use the restroom.”
A U.S. District Court judge ruled against Grimm in the fall.
“Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex and not on the basis of other concepts such as gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation,” according to Richmond, Va. CBS affiliate WTVR.
However, the 4th Circuit ruled in April that the district court failed to obey U.S. Department of Education regulations. Obama’s Education Department has determined that transgender students can use the bathroom they feel their gender identity best matches. (RELATED: TWO PEOPLE Have Filed OVER 1,700 Sex Discrimination Complaints With Dept. Of Education)
“Because we conclude the district court did not accord appropriate deference to the relevant Department of Education regulations, we reverse its dismissal of G.G.’s Title IX claim,” Judge Henry Floyd, an Obama appointee, wrote in the appellate opinion.
The court held that the lower court judge “used the wrong evidentiary standard” in issuing a ruling in favor the Gloucester school board. The court remanded the case to the district court “for consideration under the correct standard.”
Grimm, the student, was elated.
“Today’s decision gives me hope that my fight will help other kids avoid discriminatory treatment at school,” she said in an ACLU statement obtained by WTVR.
At least one physician has diagnosed Grimm with gender dysphoria, which means that Grimm insists she is actually a boy even though she was born with and lived her life with female reproductive organs.
John Banzhaf, a famed public interest law professor at the George Washington University Law School, notes that states can likely pass laws which require students to use taxpayer-funded public school bathrooms which match their actual anatomy.
“While federal law may override state statutes in many areas of law, courts have repeatedly held that, for this to happen, the intent of Congress to preempt state law must be very clear, either in the text of the statute itself, or by unambiguous legislative history. Here there is neither,” Banzhaf told The Daily Caller in a statement.
The nationwide debate over transgender bathrooms may ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court regardless of the court’s decision to accept the Gloucester school board’s petition.
Last month, the state of Texas filed a lawsuit over the Obama administration’s directive that transgender students in public schools be allowed to use the bathroom of their choice. Several states and school districts have gotten on-board with the suit, setting the stage for a legal battle that could have huge implications for transgender legal issues.
Texas filed the suit in a court district that is likely to earn easy victories from conservative justices. Those rulings will almost certainly be appealed, and then it will be up to the Supreme Court to decide if it chooses to take up the issue. (RELATED: Supreme Court May Decide Transgender Bathroom Issue Once And For All)
Follow Eric on Twitter. Like Eric on Facebook. Send education-related story tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.