Metro Weekly

Judge Rules Transgender Student Has Right To Use Boys’ Restroom

U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt is prohibiting an Indiana school from barring a transgender seventh-grader from the boys' restroom.

John R. Wooden Middle School – Facebook

A federal judge has ordered an Indiana school district to allow a 13-year-old transgender student to use the boys’ restroom at his middle school.

U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt, of the Southern District of Indiana, issued a preliminary injunction last week prohibiting the Metropolitan School District of Martinsville from barring the transgender seventh-grader, A.C., from the boys’ restroom at John R. Wooden Middle School.

A.C., who has identified as a boy since he was 8 years old, has been clinically diagnosed with gender dysphoria, is currently seeing a physician to treat his condition, and has been granted permission to legally change his name.

When A.C. first began attending Wooden Middle School, he was offered use of a single-sex restroom in the school clinic, but the location of the restroom was inconvenient for him because it was so far from his classes. A.C. was marked tardy several times due to being late and having to travel such a far distance between the clinic and his classes — and his tardiness only singled him out from other students since he was the only one required to use that particular restroom.

A.C. began to suffer from anxiety, depression, and stigmatization due to the restrictions placed on him. A.C.’s stepfather asked the school to allow the student to use the boys’ restroom, but the school district denied that request, reports Indianapolis-based FOX affiliate WXIN.

According to court documents, a transgender advocate was brought in to discuss the A.C.’s rights with staff. Afterward, the middle school principal still refused to allow A.C. to use the boys’ restroom, but reportedly extended an offer to allow him to switch to remote learning or to dismiss any write-ups he had for tardiness to his classes.

Defying the school district’s decision, A.C., of his own accord, began using the boys’ restroom and did so for three weeks without incident or complaint from his fellow classmates. But a staff member who saw A.C. enter the restroom reported him to the principal. The principal then gave A.C. a choice: he could either use the girls’ restroom or the restroom in the clinic, but would be disciplined if he continued using the boys’ restroom.

A.C.’s family claimed that he would often come home feeling depressed and humiliated and began dreading to go to school. Enlisting the help of the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana and Indiana Legal Services, A.C. and his mother sued the school district, alleging that the prohibition on restroom use violated his constitutional rights.

In her ruling, Pratt found that the district’s policy barring A.C. from the boys’ restroom was likely to be found to violate his rights under Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, which prohibits sex-based discrimination in educational settings, as well as his right to equal protection under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Pratt also found that the evidence provided to the court showed that A.C. would suffer “irreparable harm” if barred from the restroom, and rejected the school district’s assertions that allowing him to use boys’ facilities infringes upon the privacy rights of other students. She also noted that the restrooms in the middle schools have stalls and privacy partitions that make it difficult for restroom users to see other students in a state of undress.

“The School District’s concerns with the privacy of other students appear entirely conjectural,” Pratt wrote. “No evidence was provided to support the School District’s concerns, and other courts dealing with similar defenses have also dismissed them as unfounded.”

Going forward, A.C. will be allowed to use the boys’ restroom while his lawsuit proceeds on its merits. 

“We are happy that, with this order, our client will have the same opportunities as his peers to learn, grow, and succeed at school,” Megan Stuart, a case attorney for Indiana Legal Services, said in a statement. “His worries should be about things like homework and friendships, not whether he can use a restroom.”

“The law is clear: denying transgender students their right to use the correct restroom is discrimination,” added Stevie Pactor, an attorney with the ACLU of Indiana. “We hope that public schools and legislators will take notice and forgo future challenges by providing equal treatment to all students.”

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