U.S. Supreme Court remands and vacates Gavin Grimm caseTop Highlights, Around the Nation, Breaking News Monday, March 6th, 2017
WASHINGTON – Today, the Supreme Court of the United States announced it will not hear the case of G.G. v. Gloucester County School Board this term. Gavin Grimm, a transgender boy, filed suit against the school board alleging it violated Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 by denying him use of the boy’s restroom.
The Supreme Court sent the Grimm case back to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals following the Trump Administration’s decision to rescind protective school guidance for transgender students. Because the Fourth Circuit’s original ruling was heavily based on the Obama Administration’s guidance, the Supreme Court has asked the lower court to revisit the case and rule on the underlying statutory question regarding the scope of Title IX. Title IX prohibits discrimination against transgender students including with respect to restroom access regardless of the guidance.
In June, a federal court ordered the Gloucester County School Board to allow Grimm full access to the restroom that corresponds with his gender identity, consistent with a ruling from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. In August, the Supreme Court of the United States halted the lower court’s order, allowing the school board’s discriminatory policy to remain in place while the court awaited an application by the school board to have its full appeal heard.
48 hours after Jeff Sessions was confirmed as Attorney General and a day after being sworn in, the Department of Justice moved to eliminate the Obama Administration’s challenge to a nationwide injunction against enforcement of the guidance, allowing the nationwide hold to continue. Despite this action, transgender students facing discrimination can still file suit under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.
Allowing transgender people to access facilities consistent with their gender identity — something compelled for years by laws in 18 states as well as embraced by hundreds of cities and school districts around the country — has not resulted in problems. On the other hand, forcing transgender students to use sex-segregated facilities contrary to their identity can impose real harm on transgender students, further compounding the discrimination and marginalization they already face.
Joshua Block, senior staff attorney at the ACLU’s LGBT Project and lead counsel for Grimm, had the following reaction, “Nothing about today’s action changes the meaning of the law. Title IX and the Constitution protect Gavin and other transgender students from discrimination. While we’re disappointed that the Supreme Court will not be hearing Gavin’s case this term, the overwhelming level of support shown for Gavin and trans students by people across the country throughout this process shows that the American people have already moved in the right direction and that the rights of trans people cannot be ignored. This is a detour, not the end of the road, and we’ll continue to fight for Gavin and other transgender people to ensure that they are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.”
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Legal Director Sarah Warbelow said,“The Supreme Court of the United States sent this case back to the Fourth Circuit as a direct result of the Trump Administration rescinding school guidance protecting transgender students. Now, thousands of transgender students across the country will have to wait even longer for a final decision from our nation’s highest court affirming their basic rights. To be clear, transgender students are covered by Title IX and are entitled to the same rights and protections as every other student. But while this plays out in our courts, we are deeply concerned about the consequences this could have for transgender students, who may not be aware of their rights or be subject to increased discrimination by others who feel emboldened by the Trump Administration’s recent actions. Now more than ever it is crucial for all of us to affirm to transgender students that they are equal, they are valued, and there are millions of people across our country who will have their backs, no matter what.”
Responding to the decision, Stacey Long Simmons, director of Public Policy and Government Affairs, National LGBTQ Task Force said, “It is extremely disappointing that the Supreme Court declined to use this opportunity to provide clarity on gender identity protections under Title IX sex protections. That said, nothing about today’s action changes the meaning of the law: Title IX and the Constitution protect Gavin and other transgender students from discrimination. Every single young person in our nation should have access to a quality education, free from discrimination, persecution and violence. The outpouring of support for Gavin — and through his case, every trans student in our education system — further illustrates America’s abhorrence for discrimination in all its forms, and particularly against the most vulnerable, our children and young people.”
GLSEN Executive Director Dr. Eliza Byard, issued the following statement in response, “The Supreme Court has missed an opportunity to end the painful discrimination currently faced by tens of thousands of transgender students nationwide. The position previously taken by the Departments of Education and Justice lifted up best practices for K-12 schools to improve the lives of students and provide a clear path to opportunity.
“We remain confident the courts will ultimately stand with Gavin and other transgender students in seeking access to school facilities that correspond with their gender identity and determining their gender-affirming name and pronouns, but in the meantime, trans students are left in limbo about their protections while the case is reheard.
“Additionally, the federal government continues to backtrack on its commitment to supporting transgender students, making it more important than ever that educators, schools, school districts, and state governments make explicitly clear their support through inclusive school values statements and comprehensive policies.”
National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García issued the following statement, “We, as educators, have a moral, legal, and professional duty to support all students, including our transgender students, and nothing about the Supreme Court’s decision today to remand Gavin’s case to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit changes that.
“While we are disappointed that the Supreme Court deferred deciding whether Gavin’s rights were violated when he was discriminated against at school for being transgender, we are confident that the Fourth Circuit, and eventually the Supreme Court, will ultimately vindicate his rights.
“Most courts have already concluded that federal law protects transgender students, and we fully expect that the Fourth Circuit will agree.”
A recent study correlated the high suicide rates of transgender students with discriminatory bathroom restrictions, and, according to the Youth Suicide Prevention Program, more than 50 percent of transgender youth will have had at least one suicide attempt by their 20th birthday.
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