A Virginia school board has agreed to pay $ 1.3 million in legal fees to resolve a discrimination lawsuit filed by a former student whose efforts to use the boys’ washroom have placed him at the center of a national debate over the rights of transgender people.
Gavin Grimm’s battle with the Gloucester County School Board began in 2014, when he was in second grade and his family informed his school that he was transgender. The administrators were supportive at first. But after an outcry from some parents and students, the school board adopted a policy requiring students to use washrooms and changing rooms for their “corresponding biological sexes.”
Mr. Grimm sued the school board. The legal battle propelled him into the national spotlight as Republican-controlled state legislatures introduced a wave of ‘toilet bills’ requiring transgender people to use public toilets in government and school buildings that match the sex indicated on their birth certificate.
“We are pleased that this long litigation is finally over and that Gavin has been fully vindicated by the courts, but it would not have taken more than six years of costly litigation to get to this point,” said Joshua Block, lawyer for the ‘American Civil Liberties Union. who represented Mr Grimm, said in a statement Thursday. Mr Block added that he hoped the outcome “would give other school boards and lawmakers a break before they use discrimination to score political points.”
The Gloucester County Public Schools Superintendent’s Office declined to comment, instead noting in a terse statement that the school board had “responded” to Mr Grimm’s demand for payment of legal fees.
In his own statement, Mr Grimm said the school board chose a “costly legal battle” over giving it access to a safe environment. “I hope this result sends a strong message to other school systems, that discrimination is a losing battle,” he said.
The ACLU said the school board’s “degrading and stigmatizing policy” excluded Mr. Grimm even after he began receiving hormone therapy that altered his bone and muscle structure, deepened his voice and made him grow facial hair. .
The evil continued after Mr Grimm graduated, the group said: The school district refused to provide him with a transcript that matched his gender identity, so he had to provide colleges and potential employers with a transcript identifying her as a woman.
In an interview on Monday, Mr Grimm said he was optimistic about the progress that has been made, even as the debate over transgender rights has intensified.
“We are making progress every single day of loneliness,” he said. “State by state, courtroom by courtroom, the right decisions are made and trans equality is upheld in the courts. “
A consequence of the increased visibility of transgender people, Mr Grimm said, is that “critics are also gaining visibility by using this in a kind of cultural war to mobilize other political issues.”
The settlement was announced two months after the Supreme Court let stand a lower court ruling in Mr Grimm’s favor. A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled last year that school board policy violated the Constitution and federal law. The Supreme Court gave no reason to refuse to hear the school board’s appeal against this decision.
The Supreme Court had agreed to hear an earlier appeal in Mr. Grimm’s case, but dismissed it in 2017 after the Trump administration changed the federal government’s stance on transgender rights. The Biden administration has since adopted policies protecting transgender students.
The central question in the case was whether Title IX, the federal law prohibiting discrimination based on sex in schools that receive federal money, also prohibits discrimination based on gender identity.
Some proponents of transgender rights were hoping for a sweeping Supreme Court ruling that would grant new rights to transgender people. But Mr. Grimm welcomed the court’s rejection of the school board’s appeal as a victory.
“I am happy that my struggle of several years for my school to see me as I am is over,” he said at the time. “Being forced to use the nurse’s room, a private bathroom, and the girls’ room was humiliating for me, and having to go to a remote toilet severely hampered my education. Trans youth deserve to use the toilet in peace without being humiliated and stigmatized by their own school boards and elected officials.