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Transgender student drops part of landmark bathroom case

Posted at 6:30 PM, Aug 11, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-11 18:30:45-04

RICHMOND, Va. – Lawyers for transgender teen Gavin Grimm have set aside part of his case against the Gloucester County Public Schools.

After spending years fighting all the way to the Supreme Court, Grimm’s lawyers filed to drop the appeal seeking an immediate end to the district's bathroom policy.

This comes after judges with the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond ruled that the 18-year-old may not be able to pursue the case anymore since he graduated high school in June.

The ACLU said Grimm's decision now clears the way for them to litigate his case based on Title IX discrimination.

Grimm was born a female, but has identified as male since his freshman year in high school. According to court documents, Grimm used the boys’ restrooms at the school for approximately seven weeks without incident.

However, after some adults in the community complained, the Gloucester County School Board overruled its administrators and enacted a new policy prohibiting boys and girls “with gender identity issues” from using the same restrooms as other students. As a result, the new policy required transgender students to an “alternative appropriate private facility.”

Grimm made TIME’s List of the Most Influential People of 2017  after becoming a symbol in the transgender community, fighting for his rights. He spoke earlier this year before Congress, saying ““My case will not be resolved until after I graduate, but this fight is bigger than me.”

In an interview with the publication Grimm said he “never would have dreamed” the issue would gain national traction.

“This process has been stressful. It’s been an absolute whirlwind. I’ve had opportunities that I wouldn’t have otherwise had, which has been beautiful, and I’ve met so many amazing people, which has been wonderful,” Grimm said in his interview with TIME. “But it’s never lost on me that I’ve had these experiences because of a conversation that just should never have happened.”

The Trump administration’s reversal of Obama-era protections that allowed transgender students in public schools to use bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity has angered civil rights groups.

The change in position reignited the debate on whether guidance on transgender students’ use of bathroom and locker room facilities is a state or federal rights issue.

Here are a few questions and answers to help explain how we got here:

What was the Obama administration’s position?

Last year, the Education and Justice departments issued joint guidance directing schools to let transgender students use facilities that correspond with their gender identity. The letter to school districts and colleges that receive federal funding was based on the Obama administration’s interpretation of Title IX, the federal law that bans sex discrimination in schools.

But whether Title IX protections extend to a person’s gender identity depends on whom you ask. Though many states have laws consistent with the guidance, lawmakers and educators criticized the directive, saying it was federal overreach that threatened the safety and privacy of non-transgender students.

The United States has 150,000 transgender youth between ages 13 and 17, according to UCLA’s Williams Institute.

Why did the Trump administration revoke the directive?

In a two-page letter to public schools, the Trump administration said the Obama-era directive did not provide “extensive legal analysis” of how its position was consistent with Title IX. The letter cited “significant litigation” caused by the guidance, showing the need for “due regard” of the role of states and local school districts in shaping education policy.

“As President Trump has clearly stated, he believes policy regarding transgender bathrooms should be decided at the state level,” the White House said in a statement. “The joint decision made today by the Department of Justice and the Department of Education … paves the way for an open and inclusive process to take place at the local level with input from parents, students, teachers and administrators.”

What were the states’ reactions to the guidelines?

Officials in some states and cities, including Colorado, Iowa, Oregon, Washington state, San Francisco, New York City and the District of Columbia, consider denying transgender people the right to use a gender identity-appropriate restroom a violation of discrimination laws, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

The ACLU adds that in some cities, such as San Francisco, transgender people should not have to prove their gender to gain access to a public restroom unless others have to show an ID to use that restroom.

What has been the reaction to the new guidelines?

The issue has sparked a fiery debate, with supporters of Obama’s guidelines applauding federal protections for transgender students while critics slammed them as overreach.

The Family Research Council, a conservative Christian group, welcomed the new guidelines.

“The Trump administration’s reversal of this mandate on schools is a victory for parents, children and privacy,” council President Tony Perkins said in a statement.

“The Obama administration resorted to this coercive policy because they knew parents and schools could never be persuaded to force boys and girls to shower together, stay together on school trips, and use the same locker rooms and bathrooms. As it turned out, the persistence of parents was far stronger than the government’s power of coercion.”

Civil rights groups quickly pointed out that Wednesday’s announcement does not undo Title IX or state-level protections for transgender students.

“While it’s disappointing to see the Trump administration revoke the guidance, the administration cannot change what Title IX means,” said ACLU attorney Joshua Block, lead counsel for Grimm.

The CNN wire contributed to this report.