WASHINGTON October 28, 2016 – Today, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) civil rights organization, responded to news that the U.S. Supreme Court will hear Gloucester County School Board v. Grimm, a case involving discrimination against a transgender student. Gavin Grimm, a transgender boy, filed suit against the school board alleging the district violated Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 by denying him use of the boy’s restroom. The Supreme Court’s decision in this case will have far-reaching consequences for tens of thousands of transgender students across the nation.
“The Supreme Court’s ultimate decision in this case will have a profound impact on transgender youth across the country,” said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. “While hundreds of school districts nationwide are already respecting the civil rights of their transgender students, some are unconscionably discriminating against students like Gavin. Every day that discrimination is allowed to continue, transgender students are put at even greater risk of harm. No young person should wake up in the morning fearful of bullying or discrimination during the school day ahead.”
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, SCOTUS 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. The Fourth Circuit ruling gave appropriate deference to the Department of Education’s interpretation of Title IX as allowing transgender students to use school restrooms consistent with their gender identity.
Allowing transgender people to access facilities consistent with their gender identity — something compelled for years by laws in 18 states as well as adopted 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.
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Denying transgender people access to facilities consistent with their gender identity has serious consequences. 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.
The HRC Foundation’s Welcoming Schools program works extensively with teachers and administrators to support transgender and gender-expansive students, create LGBTQ-inclusive schools, prevent bias-based bullying and gender stereotyping, and embrace family diversity. In 2015, the HRC Foundation, with the American Civil Liberties Union, Gender Spectrum, National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the National Education Association, released Schools In Transition: A Guide for Supporting Transgender Students in K-12, which serves as the premiere best practices guide for schools nationwide.