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Trans student wins bathroom battle as Supreme Court rejects school’s appeal

"An incredible victory”

By Alastair James

Words: Alastair James; picture: The US Supreme Court (Pixabay)

A US Supreme Court decision to decline a school’s case against a transgender student has been hailed as an “incredible victory.”

On Monday (28 June 2021) the Supreme Court passed on the case of Gavin Grimm, a student who had challenged a policy by a Virginia school board that restricted him from using the men’s bathroom.

The decision to pass on the case means the lower court’s siding with Grimm remains in place.

It comes as several US states have or are trying to pass legislation restricting access to bathrooms for trans pupils.

“An incredible victory”

Speaking to NBC News after the decision, Grimm said: “I am glad that my years-long fight to have my school see me for who I am is over. Being forced to use the nurse’s room, a private bathroom, and the girl’s room was humiliating for me, and having to go to out-of-the-way bathrooms severely interfered with my education.”

Gavin Grimm (picture: Wiki)

Josh Block, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union who represented Grimm, told the broadcaster it was “an incredible victory for Gavin and for transgender students around the country.”

The decision follows a long legal battle for Grimm, who began transitioning after his first year in high school. NBC reports he was initially given permission to use the boys’ bathroom before the Gloucester County School Board enacted a policy that people had to use bathrooms that corresponded with their “biological genders.”

In a statement provided to Buzzfeed News, the school board declined to comment on this week’s move.

In 2016, the US Supreme Court announced it would take on the case after the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit determined that Title IX, a federal law that bans discrimination on the basis of gender in public schools, protects the rights of transgender students.

“This crisis cannot be ignored”

Currently, there are several conservative states that have already or are trying to put in place bans on what bathrooms people can use. In May, Tennessee signed one such bill into law. HB 1233 (SB 1367) means schools could face legal action if someone believes they have used a designated single-sex space, such as a bathroom, with someone who is transgender.

Under President Trump, guidance for schools that pupils should be able to use bathrooms that match their gender identity was revoked after being brought in by President Obama.

The Human Rights Campaign advocacy group has said that 2021 is already the worst year for anti-trans legislation in the States. They say 250 anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced, with many targeting the trans community. The group’s president Alphonso David has said: “This crisis cannot be ignored and necessitates concrete action from all those with the ability to speak out.

“These bills are not only harmful and discriminatory, but also represent a failure in our democracy and the commitment elected officials make to protect and serve their constituents. Now is not the time for reluctance or passivity, it is time to take urgent action to protect the basic rights and humanity of LGBTQ people in America.”

In March, Arkansas became the first state to outlaw providing gender-affirming treatments and surgery to trans people under the age of 18. Several states have either passed or are trying to pass legislation preventing trans student-athletes from competing in teams that match their gender identity.