Metro Weekly

Judge issues injunction allowing Indiana transgender student to use boys’ restroom

School district's policy requires children to use the bathroom matching the gender listed on their birth certificate

Photo: Nikolai Nolan, via Wikimedia.

A federal judge in Indiana has issued a preliminary injunction that will allow a transgender student to use the bathroom matching his gender identity.

The 17-year-old student, J.A.W., sued the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corp. over a policy banning him from the boys’ restroom, even though he has undergone hormone therapy as part of his transition, and his local school recognizes him as a boy in all other respects.

He and his lawyers, with the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, asked the court to issue an injunction that would allow him to use the boys’ restroom and other facilities in time for the start of school, which kicked off Wednesday, reports the Evansville Courier & Press.

U.S. District Judge William Lawrence, of the Southern District of Indiana, issued the injunction last Friday to allow J.A.W. to use the boys’ restroom, finding that the teenager was “likely to prevail” in his claim that the district’s policy violates his rights under both the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Title IX.

“The Court finds that the likely negative emotional consequences of being denied access to the boys’ restrooms at school would constitute irreparable harm to J.A.W.,” Lawrence wrote in his decision.

“…Because J.A.W. has demonstrated that he likely will suffer harm if an injunction is not granted, and EVSC has not articulated any harm that it or the public would suffer specifically from the issuance of an injunction, the Court finds that the balance of harms weighs in favor of granting J.A.W.’s request.”

EVSC attorney Pat Shoulders told the Courier & Press that he plans to appeal the injunction.

The school district continues to insist that Indiana law requires children to be enrolled in school based on the sex listed on their birth certificates. EVSC claims that implementing any other policy would “result in chaos.” Unfortunately, J.A.W. was born in a state that does not alter gender markers on birth certificates unless a person can prove they have undergone gender confirmation surgery and obtains a court order to change the gender marker.

Shoulders also noted that Lawrence only issued a preliminary injunction, and expressed confidence that the court’s final ruling would be in the school district’s favor.

“This ruling pertains to one student and one student only out of the 23,000 who will begin the school year on Wednesday,” Shoulders said. “The EVSC will continue as it has in the past to comply with Indiana law and Indiana Department of Education regulations. All federal statutes as interpreted by the U.S. Justice Department and the U.S. Department of Education. All of which seem to suggest that sex is determined biologically not psychologically.”

EVSC issued a statement saying: “We remain committed to maintaining safe and caring learning environments for all of our students.”

Ken Falk, an attorney with the ACLU of Indiana, said that Lawrence’s decision “affirms denying a student his right to use the correct restroom is discrimination, plain and simple.”

“This is consistent with the great wealth of authority and many Indiana school corporations follow the law in this regard,” Falk said in a statement. “I would hope that with this decision those Indiana school corporations that continue to have discriminatory policies in place will take heed and change them without the need for litigation.”

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

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