Metro Weekly

Gavin Grimm elected to ACLU Board of Directors

The ACLU represented Grimm while he was suing his school district over its trans-exclusive restroom policy

gavin grimm

Gavin Grimm, Photo: Todd Franson

Gavin Grimm, the transgender activist who became a major figure in the LGBTQ rights movement after he sued his local school board for discrimination, has been elected to the American Civil Liberties Union’s Board of Directors.

Grimm sued the Gloucester County (Va.) School Board in 2015 after he was barred from using the boys’ restroom at Gloucester High School, despite having previously informed school administrators about his transition, and having been allowed to use male-designated spaces, without incident, until someone complained to the school board.

The ACLU represented him in that fight, arguing that the restroom restrictions were a form of discrimination, violating both the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution and Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972.

Grimm’s case slowly worked its way through the courts and almost made it to the Supreme Court, but following the Trump administration’s rescinding of an Obama-era interpretation of schools obligations to LGBTQ students under Title IX, the case was referred back to the lower courts. Grimm eventually graduate in June 2017. 

In 2018, U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen, of the Eastern District of Virginia, rejected a request by the school board to dismiss Grimm’s lawsuit, finding that the school board’s restroom policy on transgender students should be subject to “strict scrutiny” and finding that transgender students have an interest in being protected from discrimination under federal law.

A year later, Allen ruled in Grimm’s favor, finding that the policy — as well as the school board’s obstinate refusal to amend the gender marker on Grimm’s school transcripts — did indeed violate Grimm’s (and other transgender students’) rights.

Last week, Grimm announced on Twitter that he had been elected to serve a one-year term on the ACLU’s Board of Directors.

“I am honored to announce that I have been elected to the @ACLU Board of Directors for a one year term!!” Grimm tweeted. “I am elated, and I will work hard to do this position justice. Thank you to the ACLU and to everyone who has supported me through my fight.”

The ACLU has long maintained — not only in Grimm’s case, but others involving transgender students’ access to facilities — that students should be allowed to use locker rooms and restrooms that match their gender identity.

That continues to remain a point of contention in various school districts throughout the country, and is likely to be the subject of future legal challenges until the Supreme Court decides to settle the issue. 

In December, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to hear the case of a Jacksonville-area transgender student, Drew Adams, who sued his Florida school district over a policy similar to the one adopted by Gloucester County in Grimm’s case. 

In November, an Illinois school district that has been at the center of the debate over transgender students’ rights lifted a requirement that transgender students must, rather than may, use privacy stalls in communal locker rooms.

But a similar controversy in a rural Georgia school district ended with the superintendent requiring transgender students to only use single-stall restrooms.

More recently, bills have been floated in several states, including Kentucky, seeking to restrict transgender students to using only those facilities that match their assigned sex at birth.

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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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