A federal appeals court on Tuesday officially sided with a transgender student who challenged a Wisconsin school district’s policy limiting his bathroom usage.
The three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago unanimously upheld a district court’s earlier decision to halt the enforcement of the Kenosha Unified School District’s restroom policy against Ash Whitaker, who first filed a lawsuit against KUSD in July 2016.
“The School District has not demonstrated that it will suffer any harm from having to comply with the district court’s preliminary injunction order,” the ruling stated.
The appeals court found that Whitaker is likely to succeed on his claim that he is protected from sex discrimination under Title IX and that the school district’s anti-trans bathroom policy violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
“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,” wrote Judge Ann Claire Williams.
“The School District argues that since it treats all boys and girls the same, it does not violate the Equal Protection Clause,” she continued. “This is untrue. Rather, the School District treats transgender students like Ash, who fail to conform to the sex‐based stereotypes associated with their assigned sex at birth, differently.”
Whitaker alleged in his lawsuit that he was not only barred from using the boy’s restroom, but was also regularly misgendered by teachers and not allowed to run for prom king.
Ironically, the school district’s defense focused mainly on the harm Whitaker’s presence in the boy’s restroom would bring to his fellow students, an argument Judge Williams flatly denied.
“The School District has failed to provide any evidence of how the preliminary injunction will harm it, or any of its students or parents,” she explained. “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.”
Whitaker’s victory comes just two months after an appeals court denied transgender teen Gavin Grimm’s request to expedite arguments in his suit against the Virginia school board that denied him access to the boy’s bathroom.
His case was set to go before the Supreme Court in March, but was returned to the lower court after the Trump administration revoked Obama-era guidelines saying transgender students should be allowed to use the restroom facilities that align with their gender identities.