Federal Appeals Court Rules Transgender Students Have Right To Use Bathroom Of Their Choice

In what's being described as a "groundbreaking" decision the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has become the first federal appeals court "to find conclusively that a transgender student has the right to be treated in accordance with the student’s gender identity at school under both Title IX and the Constitution."

The Hill reports:

The Chicago-based 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that a transgender student has the right to use the bathroom that corresponds with his gender identity under federal law.

In a unanimous opinion, the court upheld a lower district court order allowing Ashton Whitaker, a 17-year-old senior at Tremper High School in Kenosha, Wis., to use the boys’ bathroom despite the school's claim that Whitaker’s presence in the boys’ bathroom would invade the privacy rights of his male classmates.

In delivering the opinion of the court, Judge Ann Claire Williams said the school district failed to provide any evidence of how the preliminary injunction would harm the school or any of its students or parents.

“The harms identified by the School District are all speculative and based upon conjecture, whereas the harms to Ash are well‐documented and supported by the record,” she said.

Going further into detail Judge Williams shared:

In the 35-page opinion, Williams said a policy that requires an individual to use a bathroom that does not conform with his or her gender identity punishes that individual for his or her gender non‐conformance, which in turn violates Title IX anti-discrimination laws.

“The School District’s policy also subjects Ash, as a transgender student, to different rules, sanctions, and treatment than non‐transgender students, in violation of Title IX,” she said.

Though the school created a separate bathroom for only Whitaker to use, Williams said that only “exacerbated the harm.”

“This action further stigmatized Ash, indicating that he was ‘different’ because he was a transgender boy,” she wrote. 

The 7th Circuit Court's decision is also notable because it doesn't rely on the Obama administration’s guidance on schools’ Title IX obligations to transgender students. This guidance was rescinded by the Trump administration in February.