Metro Weekly

Transgender student sues Indiana school district for restroom access

The student claims he is being unlawfully discriminated against after being refused entry to the bathroom that matches his gender identity

Photo: Nikolai Nolan, via Wikimedia.

A student is challenging an Indiana school district’s policy regarding bathroom usage for transgender people.

A junior in the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corp. said his high school is unlawfully discriminating against him after school officials denied his request to use the bathroom that matches his gender identity.

The complaint was filed in the Southern District of Indiana last week by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana. According to the complaint, the student, who is identified as J.A.W., was told he would not be allowed to use male restrooms and was told to use the bathroom in the nurse’s office. The student claims he “is being caused irreparable harm.”

J.A.W. is requesting an injunction to force the school to allow him the use of the boys’ restroom and claims violations of the 14th Amendment and Title IX federal laws.

The complaint comes after a 15-year-old Evansville student killed himself in front of Central High School. The student’s family has said his sexual identity made him a target of bullying.

Jason Woebkenberg, a spokesperson for the district, told Indystar that school officials are reviewing the complaint. However, he also said, “We believe we have met, and will continue to meet, the requirements of Indiana and federal law as it relates to transgender students.” 

Last year, a similar case in Wisconsin ruled that Ashton Whitaker, a high school senior at the time, should be allowed to use the facilities that match his gender identity.

Anthony Michael Kreis, a professor at Chicago-Kent College of Law, told Indystar that the precedent set by the Whitaker case would likely cause the school to lose the challenge.

“In essence, the Whitaker decision shut the door for schools to treat students differently,” Kreis said.

The 7th circuit court will hear the case and will have a direct impact on Indiana public schools. Last April, for instance, the court ruled that workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation violates the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

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