Obama administration weighs in on transgender bathroom debate

30 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Education Dept., DOJ back Virginia transgender teen in school restroom dispute.

Schools that prevent transgender students from using restrooms for the gender with which they identify may be violation of federal law, according to the Obama administration. The Departments of Education and Justice have firmly come down on the side of a transgender teen who is suing for the right to use the restroom that corresponds with his gender identity, reports the Associated Press. 16-year-old Gavin Grimm of Virginia has been told by the Gloucester County School Board that he must use either the women’s restroom or a unisex restroom at his school: Grimm, who was born female but identifies as male, told his parents he was transgender in April 2014 and was allowed to use the boys’ restrooms at Gloucester High School during the last school year.Gavin Grimm, a transgender boy fighting to end discrimination against him by his public high school in Virginia, now has some mighty allies in his corner: two Obama administration agencies as well as two LGBT advocacy organizations, which filed friend of the court briefs on his behalf. After some other families complained, the school board voted 6-1 to restrict students with “transgender issues” to single-stall unisex facilities or those corresponding to their biological sex.

In April of this year, the White House announced that it would be opening its first gender-neutral restroom, which would allow more federal employees and visitors who identify as transgender greater peace of mind. The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights already has reached agreements with two southern California school districts, one in 2013 and one a year ago, to settle complaints of harassment and unequal treatment brought by transgender students. Grimm appealed to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals after a federal district court judge rejected his request for an injunction against the school’s policy, which barred him from using male restrooms. While not legally binding, it signals to school districts that may be wrestling with how to accommodate transgender students while addressing privacy concerns raised by classmates and parents which side of the debate they should take if they want to avoid a federal investigation. The brief “sends a crucial message to schools across the country — transgender youth are valuable members of our community who are entitled to full protection of the law,” Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said. “No one should be humiliated or marginalized by the adults responsible for helping them to achieve.” Gloucester County Attorney Ted Wilmot was not available for comment on Thursday, his office said.

After the Justice Department indicated in July that it wanted to weigh in on Grimm’s lawsuit, Wilmot told the Daily Press newspaper in Newport News, Virginia that existing court precedents do not support the idea that the school board’s restroom rules violate Title IX. Written on behalf of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, the Pediatric Endocrine Society, the nation’s leading clinics specializing in serving transgender youth, Dr. Norman Spack of Boston Children’s Hospital, and a number of other prominent doctors and medical and policy organizations with expertise in adolescent and transgender health issues, the brief takes a close look at research on child development of identity, and the role of schools in supporting-or thwarting-healthy development. In a pair of memos issued last year, one on the responsibility of schools to respond to reports of sexual violence and the other on access to single-sex classes, the office also articulated its view that Title IX entitles transgender students to be treated in accordance with their expressed gender. The administration’s filing claims that the district’s policy constitutes sex discrimination and therefore violates Title IX of the Education Act of 1972.

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