Supreme Court to take on Virginia transgender bathroom case
- The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear the appeal of Virginia's Gloucester County School Board after a lower court ruled in favor of Gavin Grimm, a transgender student who has been fighting for his right to use the boys’ bathroom in his school.
- Education Week reports that Justice Stephen Breyer voted with the court’s four conservative justices to grant a temporary stay this summer, allowing the district to continuing blocking Grimm’s access to the bathroom that matches his gender identity while the court was in its summer recess, but if the justices deadlock along ideological lines, a lower court decision in favor of Grimm will stand.
- The lower court ruling was in deference to the authority of the U.S. Department of Education, which had sent a letter to the district in January 2015 outlining its responsibilities under Title IX to protect students against discrimination based on their gender identity, and the court will decide whether that deference is proper and whether the department’s interpretation of Title IX should stand.
The Department of Education under President Barack Obama has settled several Office of Civil Rights cases over the rights of transgender students and the obligations of school districts to protect them. The Dorchester County School District Two in South Carolina agreed to grant a transgender elementary student access to the girls’ bathroom to resolve a case last summer and Township High School 211 in Palatine, IL, agreed to allow a high school transgender student access to the girls’ locker room to resolve its own case in December 2015. As early as October 2014, the Downey Unified School District in California agreed to a range of actions to mitigate discrimination against a transgender student in response to a civil rights complaint.
The Supreme Court’s decision as to whether the Obama administration’s interpretation of Title IX is in line with the law will have a ripple effect across the country. Districts that have made changes based on Office of Civil Rights investigations could walk back their accommodations, and those that have yet to be in the spotlight will have new, less inclusive, guidance to fall back on.
- Education Week Supreme Court to Weigh Transgender Rights, Education Department Authority
- The Washington Post Supreme Court takes up school bathroom rules for transgender students
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