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Supreme Court to Decide Which Bathroom Trans High School Student Can Use

By George Khoury, Esq. on November 01, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Last week, the Supreme Court announced that they will be taking up the case of Gavin Grimm, the high school student who has been told he can't use the boys' restroom because he is transgender. The case will be heard at some point next year, as the Court has only accepted to hear the case at this point.

When a case is appealed to the Supreme Court, one party to a case is asking the Court to review a Federal Appeals Court's decision. The Supreme Court is asked to review thousands of cases each year, and only selects about 80 to review. Although Gavin won the last appeal, the Supreme Court ordered that the appeals court's decision not go into effect until they decide to reject the case or after they decide the case.

The Case of Gavin Grimm

Gavin's case was forced upon him. When he started high school as a freshman, he initially used the unisex/single stall restroom in the nurse's office. However, it was the only single stall in the building and Gavin did not feel like he could solely use that restroom as it was the only one. When he requested that he be allowed to use the regular boys' bathroom, the school approved his request. However, when some other students' parents learned that Gavin was using the regular boys' bathroom, they petitioned the district to stop Gavin, and won. But Gavin didn't stop fighting for his rights as a transgender student.

Gavin challenged the school district in court and on appeal, Gavin won. After the appeal, but before the Supreme Court announced that they would weigh in, the Department of Education, with the Department of Justice, issued formal guidance on how public schools should handle any policy relating to sex segregation and gender identity. Basically, both agencies state that Gavin, and other trans students, should be able to use the bathroom that conforms with their gender identity, regardless of how they are identified in legal documents.

Trans Bathrooms: Separate Is Not Equal

For the purposes of Title IX, which applies to schools that receive federal funding, a student's gender identity is their sex, and Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex. Soon, the Supreme Court will weigh in and may provide some judicial certainty to this politically divisive question.

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