Metro Weekly

Gloucester County School Board appeals federal judge’s decision in favor of Gavin Grimm

4th Circuit Court of Appeals will have to decide whether Title IX prohibits anti-transgender discrimination

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

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

The Gloucester County School Board has appealed a federal judge’s decision finding that its restroom policy discriminates against transgender students.

The lawsuit against the school board, originally filed in 2015 by then-student Gavin Grimm, a transgender male barred from the boys’ restroom, continues to be a point of contention — not only among residents of Gloucester County, but nationally, as the nation is deeply divided when it comes to issues of transgender people’s ability to access shared public facilities.

Last month, U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen ruled that the restroom policy violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and Title IX’s prohibitions on sex-based discrimination. The policy was imposed by the board after almost all of its members caved to public pressure and complaints from enraged parents.

Allen also ordered the school board to change the gender on Grimm’s school transcripts to accurately reflect his gender identity, as Grimm has both changed the gender marker on his birth certificate to male and obtained a Virginia court order in 2017 legally recognizing him as a male.

The school board said it would comply with Allen’s order to change the gender marker on Grimm’s transcripts, even as it appeals the decision to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, reports the Daily Press.

The school board had previously balked at the prospect of changing Grimm’s gender marker, refusing to acknowledge his gender transition and even, at times, referring to Grimm with female pronouns. 

Grimm’s case has since been added to the General Docket for the Fourth Circuit, but no court date has been set.

As a date is scheduled and draws closer, lawyers for Grimm and the school board will submit motions, arguments, and even amicus briefs to argue their side of the case.

When Grimm originally filed his lawsuit, another federal judge ruled that the school board was within its rights to implement the restroom policy, but when that was appealed, the 4th Circuit ruled in Grimm’s favor, issuing a narrowly-tailored decision based on the Obama administration’s guidance recommending that transgender students be treated according to their gender identity under Title IX.

The case almost went before the U.S. Supreme Court, but following the Trump administration’s decision to rescind that guidance meant that the basis for their decision had been overturned, prompting the high court to send the case back to the lower courts.

What’s different this time around is that Allen’s decision embraces a broader interpretation of gender-identity discrimination as an inherent form of sex-based discrimination, which is prohibited under Title IX.

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

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