Obama Admin’s Amicus Brief Reinforces Transgender Rights


The Obama administration has announced that it is a violation of federal law for schools to deny transgender students from using the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity.

That was the argument made by the US Department of Education and the Department of Justice in a friend-of-the-court brief submitted last week.  The two agencies did so in an effort to show their support of a transgender teenager in Virginia who is suing the Gloucester County school board after being refused the right to enter the boy’s bathroom at his high school.

Sixteen-year-old Gavin Grimm first came into conflict with the school board last fall after they implemented a policy requiring students to use the bathroom associated with the gender at their birth.

Since that time, his case has gone to a district court in Norfolk, where a judge struck down the case after spending the hearing talking about marijuana laws, the Department of Justice, and how upset he was with where the country was headed.

A brief supporting Grimm had been sent out before the hearing by the Department of Justice, who continues to stand behind him, arguing that Title IX gives transgender students the right to use the bathroom of the gender with which they identify.

The policy denies Grimm “a benefit that every other student at this school enjoys: access to restrooms that are consistent with his or her gender identity,” lawyers for the two departments wrote. “Treating a student differently from other students because his birth-assigned sex diverges from his gender identity constitutes differential treatment on the basis of sex under Title IX.”

Although it has no legal power, the brief does send a message to school districts currently dealing with how to best accommodate transgender students while also paying careful thought to issues of privacy brought up by parents and students. The document reinforces that transgender students are important members of the community, and that schools should offer support to these students if they do not wish to be a part of a federal investigation.

The last two years have seen agreements being made with two southern California school districts and the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights over complaints made by transgender students there that they had been harassed and treated unfairly.

A pair of memos that were issued last year clearly state that schools must respond to all complaints of sexual violence, and that transgender students must be allowed to attend the single-sex class with which they identify, writes Lisa Leff for The Big Story.

Grimm was born a female, but told his parents in April 2014 that he was transgender.  Since then he has been allowed to use the boy’s bathroom at Gloucester High School.  However, when some families began to complain, the school board voted 6-1 to require transgender students to use either a single-stall unisex bathroom or the bathroom that correlates to the gender of their birth.