Metro Weekly

Maryland school district settles lawsuit brought by transgender student

Judge previously found that district's policy violated Max Brennan's rights under Title IX

Staff and county school board members at St. Michaels Middle High School in Talbot County, Md. – Photo: Facebook.

A school district in Maryland has reached a settlement with a transgender high school student who sued the district after he was barred from the boys’ restrooms and locker rooms.

Max Brennan, a 16-year-old student at St. Michaels Middle High School in Talbot County, Md., sued the Board of Education of Talbot County after they refused to allow Brennan to use the boys’ facilities due to his assigned sex at birth.

Instead, they relegated Brennan to one of three single-stall restrooms that they designated as “gender-neutral,” and told him he was to use those facilities to go to the bathroom or change.

In March 2018, Judge George L. Russell III rejected the board of education’s request to dismiss the case, and ruled that Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 prohibits school districts from barring transgender students from single-sex restrooms or locker rooms.

Russell also found that the school board’s restroom policy was unconstitutional because it violated Brennan’s rights under other federal and state statutes guaranteeing equal protection under the law.

Russell’s decision was the first of its kind in Maryland, and one of the first in the country finding that a district cannot bar transgender students from locker rooms matching their gender identity.

Subsequently, the ruling was used as a basis for a Virginia federal judge’s finding that the Gloucester County School Board in Gloucester, Va., violated the rights of Gavin Grimm, another transgender boy who sued his local school board after being barred from boys’ facilities.

“Courts across the country have recognized that Title IX and the Constitution prohibit schools from singling out transgender students for different and discriminatory treatment,” Joshua Block, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s LGBT and HIV project, said in a statement. “We will continue to fight alongside transgender students to ensure that all students have the opportunity to fully participate in their school and get a quality education.”

Under the terms of the settlement, negotiated with Brennan’s lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union and FreeState Justice, Brennan will have permanent access to restrooms, locker rooms, and other single-sex facilities designated for males. Costs and attorneys’ fees were resolved in a separate agreement.

“Though today’s case is over, Max’s bravery continues to ensure that students who are transgender are protected under the law,” Jennifer Kent, a managing attorney with FreeState Justice, said in a statement. “Because of Max, Maryland school districts are now on notice that subjecting students who are transgender to separate and unequal treatment is illegal, pure and simple.”

Bringing this lawsuit has been a long journey that I hope will be able to help other transgender students in the future,” Brennan said. “I couldn’t be happier with how everything turned out and I am extremely hopeful for the future.”

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com