Equity & Diversity

Transgender Students: Va. District to Ask Supreme Court to Hear Landmark Case

By Evie Blad — June 07, 2016 2 min read
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The U.S. Supreme Court may soon take up the contentious question of what restrooms and locker rooms transgender students are allowed to use at school.

The Gloucester County, Va. district plans to ask the nation’s high court to consider its policy, which restricts restroom access by “biological gender,” its attorneys informed the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Tuesday.

A transgender student in the district, Gavin Grimm, successfully challenged the policy before the appellate court in a case that has been closely watched by both transgender student advocacy groups and by opponents of new federal guidance on the rights of transgender students in schools under Title IX.

In that case, 3-1 panel of circuit court judges ruled that a lower court judge erred when he did not defer to the federal interpretation of Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in schools. The U.S. Departments of education and justice have asserted in recently years that that law applies to gender identity as well as biological sex. The full court later refused to take up the school district’s appeal of the panel’s decision.

The school district, a group of conservative state leaders from around the country, and a dissenting judge on the Fourth Circuit have argued that the federal interpretation of Title IX is incorrect and an attempt to create law rather than interpret it. The district’s attorneys said the petition asking the Supreme Court to hear the case will center on issues of bodily privacy and whether its position on deferring to federal policy interpretations is correct.

“This case is one of national significance,” the school district’s filing says. “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 school district asked the Fourth Circuit this week to issue a stay of its decision, which would allow its schools’ restroom policy to remain in place while the Supreme Court decides whether to take up the case.

As the battle over transgender student policies has heated up in recent months, many school law experts have predicted the battle will ultimately be settled by the Supreme Court, perhaps after conflicting decisions at the appellate court level.

What does this all mean for your school? Check out my explainer on transgender student issues for more information.

Photo: AP file

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.