WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court will not hear the case of a transgender student’s demand to access public-school single-sex bathrooms, instead sending it back to the lower courts for reconsideration.
Announced Monday, the decision to send the case back to a lower court was based on the Trump administration’s recent announcement that it was withdrawing the Obama-era guidance, which stated that students should have access to the facilities of their self-perceived gender identification.
“The first duty of school districts is to protect the bodily privacy rights of all of the students who attend their schools and to respect the rights of parents who understandably don’t want their children exposed in intimate changing areas like locker rooms and showers,” Kerri Kupec, legal counsel for the group Alliance Defending Freedom, stated in response to the court’s decision.
The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled last April that Gavin Grimm, a transgender student in Virginia’s Gloucester County School District, must be allowed access to public-school single-sex male facilities. Grimm was born a girl but currently identifies as a boy, receiving hormone therapy and a name change.
The school district board had decided to allow Grimm access to a unisex bathroom facility at school, after proposing that students in the district had to use locker room and restroom facilities according to their birth gender.
Grimm’s lawyers rejected this policy, saying it would “make him feel even more stigmatized” and that “being required to use separate restrooms sets him apart from his peers and serves as a daily reminder that the school views him as ‘different.’”
The case was about how transgender persons can “participate in public life” through access to public facilities, Chase Strangio, staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union’s LGBT & HIV Project, stated in a Feb. 23 conference call with reporters.
Grimm asked for an injunction on the policy, but that was denied by a district court. The Fourth Circuit overruled that decision and sent it back to the lower court, which eventually ruled in Grimm’s favor. The case was appealed to the Supreme Court, which agreed in October to hear the case.
The Obama administration last year stated that public schools should allow transgender students access to single-sex facilities, like locker rooms and restrooms, of their current gender identity.
However, after a federal court ruled against this guidance, the administration of President Donald Trump refused to challenge that decision and eventually withdrew the guidance. Based on this action, the Supreme Court sent Grimm’s case back to the Fourth Circuit for reconsideration.
“The Fourth Circuit Court, which will now rehear the case, should allow local schools to find solutions that benefit everyone’s safety and privacy,” said Ryan Anderson, senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation.
Kupec praised the Trump administration for rejecting “the faulty directive.”
Furthermore, she added, federal Title IX law doesn’t mandate such access to single-sex facilities for transgender students, as the Fourth Circuit had previously decided. Rather, it “protects boys’ and girls’ privacy in locker rooms, showers and restrooms.”
She added: “School officials should be free to protect their students’ privacy, safety and dignity without federal government interference.”