Metro Weekly

Judge rules Gavin Grimm can sue to change gender on his school transcript

The Gloucester County School Board will debate changing its policy on transgender restroom use on Feb. 19

Gavin Grimm, Photo: Todd Franson

A federal judge in Virginia has ruled that transgender activist Gavin Grimm can sue the Gloucester County School Board for refusing to change the gender on his high school transcript.

That is in addition to his ongoing challenge to its policy barring transgender people from using school facilities that match their gender identity.

U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen ruled on Thursday that Grimm could add the complaint over the transcript to his existing lawsuit, which is set to receive a bench trial in Newport News in July.

All discovery — in which lawyers for Grimm and the school board must provide their opponents with all the evidence and information they intend to use at trial — is due in March, reports The Daily Press.

Grimm, an alumnus of Gloucester High School, sued the Gloucester County School Board in 2015 alleging that the district’s policy barring him from using the boy’s restroom violated his constitutional right to equal protection and his rights under Title IX, the statute that is supposed to protect against sex discrimination in educational settings. 

The following year, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled, on extremely narrow grounds, that Grimm had the right to sue for sex discrimination, based on the Obama administration’s interpretation that Title IX’s protections should extend to students discriminated against based on their gender identity.

That was bolstered by subsequent guidance from the Obama administration.

The U.S. Supreme Court was scheduled to weigh in on whether Grimm could sue under Title IX, but cancelled oral arguments after the Trump administration withdrew the Obama-era guidance on transgender students’ right access to facilities consistent with their gender identity.

As such, the case was sent back down to the lower courts to decide whether Gloucester County’s policy is indeed discriminatory.

Grimm’s lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union have continued to fight against the policy, and, in December, announced their intention to expand the lawsuit to include the county’s refusal to amend the gender on Grimm’s student records, which they say violates Grimm’s civil rights in the same way that the restroom policy does.

They also note that Grimm has obtained a court order that recognizes his gender as male, and has changed his birth certificate, passport, and state-issued ID to reflect his correct gender identity.

Grimm, who has since moved to California and is attending community college, argues that he wants to be able to apply for jobs and four-year colleges without having to out himself as transgender. But this is unavoidable so long as his high school transcripts identify him as female.

“I’m still tethered to 2017 by this document,” Grimm told the Associated Press. “It’s unfair that a high school that put me through so much is able to wield that much negative influence over my adult life.”

Gavin Grimm and legal team - Photo: via ACLUVA.org

Gavin Grimm and legal team – Photo: ACLU of Virginia.

The Gloucester County School Board, on the other hand, argues that changing transcripts is a matter of state law, and shouldn’t be argued in federal court.

The board also claims Grimm’s lawyers have ignored guidance recommending that a person meet with school officials to change any “misleading” or “inaccurate” information on school transcripts.

If the board refuses, a person can then place a statement into the official record contesting or explaining their objection to the inclusion of certain information.

All of this legal wrangling comes as Gloucester County is debating changing the aforementioned restroom policy to allow transgender students to use facilities matching their gender identity, provided that the student meets certain criteria.

A hearing to debate the issue will be held at the school board meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 19.

It remains unclear how Grimm’s lawsuit over restroom access could be impacted if the board votes to approve the change, and whether a change in the policy recognizing transgender students’ identities would make it easier to amend school transcripts.

“If this policy had been in place when I was a sophomore at Gloucester High School, I would have been able to continue using the same restrooms as other boys without being singled out and isolated from my classmates and friends,” Grimm said in a statement provided by the ACLU in response to the proposed policy change. “I have fought this legal battle for the past four years because I want to make sure that other transgender students do not have to go through the same pain and humiliation that I did.”

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

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