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Verdicts & Settlements

Virginia School District to Pay $1.6m in Transgender Restrooms Lawsuit

— August 27, 2021

The Gloucester County School Board will pay $1.6 million to reimburse the ACLU’s legal expenses.

A Virginia school district will pay $1.6 million in legal fees to the American Civil Liberties Union, which spent nearly six years fighting a ban on transgender students using certain restrooms.

According to National Public Radio, Gavin Grimm’s lawsuit against the Gloucester County School Board ended in June after the United States Supreme Court refused the board’s appeal.

Lower courts had earlier ruled against Gloucester County, saying that its bathroom policy was unconstitutional and discriminated against Grimm, who was required to use facilities that corresponded with his biological sex, which is female.

While Grimm was given the option to use private restrooms, he was not allowed into the boys’ bathroom.

Although Gloucester County tried to advocate its policy all the way up to the Supreme Court, its board has since acquiesced.

Earlier this week, attorneys for the board agreed to the American Civil Liberties Union’s request for recompense.

LGBTQ flag. Image via Quote Catalog, Flickr, CC BY 2.0, no changes.

Josh Block, a senior staff attorney for the ACLU’s LGBTQ & HIV Project, said that “it should not have taken over six years of expensive litigation to get to this point.”

NPR notes that Grimm released his own statement, saying he hopes that “this outcome sends a strong message to other school systems that discrimination is an expensive, losing battle.”

In an earlier article, NPR reported that Grimm began identifying as male in his freshman year of high school. Shortly thereafter, he was prescribed and began taking hormones to transition.

Grimm was initially allowed to use boys’ facilities—but, not long after, the Gloucester County School Board passed an official policy prohibiting students from using any restroom which does not correspond to their biological sex.

The board, says NPR, made its decision after some parents complained about Grimm using the “wrong” restroom.

In his lawsuit, Grimm said the school’s policy impacted his physical and mental health. He had repeated urinary tract infections, which he blamed on his inability to use the bathroom during school hours. Grimm was later hospitalized for suicidal thoughts.

However, Grimm’s case was “pinballed” through the federal court system. Any hope for a swift decision was stalled by the government’s rapidly-changing policies on transgender students—while the Obama administration issued a directive allowing students to use bathrooms aligned with their gender identity, President Donald Trump rescinded the order.

The Supreme Court was scheduled to hear Grimm’s lawsuit in 2017, but canceled the hearing after the Trump administration’s policy revision.

While the U.S. Supreme Court did not offer any opinion on the merits of Grimm’s lawsuit, its refusal to hear the Gloucester County School Board’s appeal effectively let lower court decisions in Grimm’s favor stand.

Grimm’s case, adds National Public Radio, was decided by U.S. District Court in 2019, and then reaffirmed by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2020. Both courts ruled in Grimm’s favor.


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