American federal court rules school policies barring trans students from accessing bathrooms are unconstitutional

After a five year court battle, trans student Gavin Grimm has won his case against a Virginia high school which banned him from using the boys' bathrooms.


An American federal appeals court has ruled that school policies which prevent trans students from accessing public bathrooms are unconstitutional and discriminatory. 

On Wednesday, August 26, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled in favour of trans student Gavin Grimm in his case against Gloucester County School Board. The ruling found that the school violated federal law and the U.S Constitution by forcing the former student to use either an “alternative private” bathroom or girls’ bathroom. 

Since the student has graduated, the Fourth Circuit upheld the district court’s ruling that the school must update his transcripts to reflect his gender and provide copies to him. Judge Henry F. Floyd wrote, “Grimm’s four years of high school were shaped by his fight to use the restroom that matched his consistent and persistent gender identity. In the face of adults who misgendered him and called him names, he spoke with conviction at two Board meetings.”

“We are left without doubt that the Board acted to protect cisgender boys from Gavin’s mere presence — a special kind of discrimination against a child that he will no doubt carry with him for life,” Floyd further wrote. 

In a press release from the American Civil Liberties Union and its Virginia affiliate, Grimm hailed the court’s decision. He wrote, “All transgender students should have what I was denied: the opportunity to be seen for who we are by our schools and our government. Today’s decision is an incredible affirmation for not just me, but for trans youth around the country.” 

Senior staff attorney with the ACLU LGBT+ and HIV Project Josh Block stated in the release, “Transgender students belong in our schools. The court once again ruled that school’s obligation to create an environment that is safe and welcoming for all students includes transgender students.” 

The trans community have been speaking up about feeling unsafe in bathrooms for fear of discrimination and harassment, especially for those who are currently in a school environment. After a five year long court battle, the decision in favour of Grimm’s case against the Virginia school shows a significant victory in terms of accessing public spaces.

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