A born-female transgender student won $800,000 from her Wisconsin high school Tuesday after reaching a settlement in a lawsuit alleging staff had monitored her trips to the boys’ bathroom.
Ash Whitaker, who identifies as male, graduated from Tremper High School in June, but not before leveling a lawsuit and unsubstantiated claims that teachers had accompanied her to the boys’ bathroom and forced her to wear an identifying bracelet to single her out from other students, Kenosha News reported Wednesday. The Kenosha school board voted 5-2 Tuesday night to grant the $800,000 settlement.
“Winning this case was so empowering and made me feel like I can actually do something to help other trans youths live authentically,” Whitaker said. “My message to other trans kids is to respect themselves and accept themselves and love themselves. If someone’s telling you that you don’t deserve that, prove them wrong.”
Whitaker and her family will only receive $150,000 of the payment, however, as the remaining $650,000 will go toward legal fees. The district’s decision to take the settlement was a financial one, as costs of fighting the case had been mounting. The district believes it committed no wrongdoing and denies that teachers monitored Whitaker’s bathroom use or forced her to wear a wristband.
Whitaker has submitted no evidence to prove her claims.
“To this point, [Whitaker’s] claimed fees were $1.7 million, so we estimated if we went up to the Supreme Court, and/or back down to trial court to try the case and go through anything, that their fees would be somewhere between $4 million and $5 million. So, it becomes a real economic decision in terms of balancing risks and the downside of being given an adverse decision,” the district’s attorney Ron Stadler told Kenosha News. “I think we have an excellent argument, but if you look at it in terms that you’ve got these escalating costs, you’ve got a good argument, but not an absolute argument.”
The settlement ends the district’s appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, a measure taken after the 7th District Court of Appeals ruled in Whitaker’s favor. Whitaker is now a college freshman attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
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