In 2014, the Gloucester Virginia County School Board imposed new rules limiting trans students' access to school bathrooms, and five years later they're still at it.
The school board's 2014 policy asserted that bathrooms will be "limited to the corresponding biological genders" and that students with "gender identity issues" would have to use separate facilities. In response, student Gavin Grimm sued the school board with help from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Virginia. That touched off a half-decade legal battle that still shows no signs of ending.
In the latest move, U.S. District Judge Arenda Wright Allen ruled last week that the school district's policy was improper and discriminatory.
"There is no question that the Board's policy discriminates against transgender students on the basis of their gender noncomformity," Allen wrote in her ruling. "Transgender students are singled out, subjected to discriminatory treatment, and excluded from spaces where similarly situated students are permitted to go."
Allen's ruling established that the school board had violated both Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which bans sex-based discrimination in publicly funded education, and the 14th Amendment. In addition to granting access to school facilities, the ruling also compels the school district to accurately reflect Grimm's gender on transcripts, which it had previously refused to do.
But now lawyers for the board, who previously argued that Grimm is and should be treated as female, say they'll appeal the ruling to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. From there, the case could end up heading to the U.S. Supreme Court.
This wouldn't be the first stop for a case that's already charted a labyrinthine path through the legal system. It began in 2014, when Grimm's family notified the school that he was being treated for gender dysphoria. Grimm used male restrooms without issue for several months before the school board stepped in with its new policy.
Grimm and the ACLU filed suit, with the case bouncing from district court to the Fourth Circuit through 2015 and 2016. Eventually, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case in 2017 and a resolution seemed to be imminent.
But then the Trump administration's Department of Education (DOE) revised its policy on transgender students, wiping out protections established under the Obama administration. Because that policy change could affect the lower court rulings, the Supreme Court ordered the case back down to a court of appeals to be heard once again.
Though Grimm has since graduated from high school, the case remains in progress and he has promised to pursue justice for as long as it takes.
Currently at issue, however, is his ability to use restrooms when returning to campus for alumni activities. A favorable ruling in the case would also have widespread national repercussions, establishing a precedent at the federal level that could either dramatically expand trans access to education or significantly curtail it.