Columbia Law School Clinic Argues for Equal Bathroom Access for Transgender Students

Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic Files Amicus Brief for Women's Rights and Title IX Organizations in U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Challenging Discriminatory Policy Adopted by Public School Board

New York, October 29, 2015—A high school’s refusal to allow a transgender male student to use the boys’ bathroom violates Title IX, the federal law prohibiting sex discrimination, Columbia Law School’s Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic argues in an amicus brief filed Oct. 28 with the Fourth Circuit on behalf of women’s rights and Title IX organizations.

Gavin Grimm, the 16-year old plaintiff in the case, challenges a policy adopted by the Gloucester, Virginia school board last December that forbids transgender students from using bathroom facilities consistent with their gender identity.  The policy provides that use of boys and girls bathrooms in school district “shall be limited to the corresponding biological genders, and students with gender identity issues shall be provided an alternative appropriate private facility.” 
Defying the overwhelming trend in case law from around the country, which recognizes that Title IX prohibits all forms of sex discrimination, the lower court relied on regulations that allow public schools to maintain single-sex bathrooms to uphold the policy.
Challenging the lower court’s reasoning, the brief explains:  “A transgender person’s identity as male or female differs from their assigned sex at birth.  Because what it means to be a transgender person is inherently linked to sex, discrimination against a person for being transgender is sex discrimination in the most basic sense.” 
The brief also makes clear that upholding the lower court’s ruling “would be devastating for transgender students, who effectively would be excluded from the ability to attend public schools except at the price of daily humiliation and stigma, imposed by school officials in a way that is almost certain to cause them lasting harm.” 
“This type of restriction, which is both discriminatory and inhumane, makes equal educational opportunity impossible for transgender students,” said Suzanne B. Goldberg, Director of the Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic and Herbert and Doris Wechsler Clinical Professor of Law.
 According to Erin E. Buzuvis, of counsel on the brief and professor and director of the Center for Gender & Sexuality Studies at Western New England University, “A transgender boy is a boy and should be treated the same as any other boy.  Singling him out for exclusion from educational opportunities is gender discrimination under Title IX, and a violation of his civil rights.”
The brief is filed on behalf of The National Women’s Law Center, Legal Momentum, The Association of Title IX Administrators, Equal Rights Advocates, Gender Justice, The Women’s Law Project, Legal Voice, Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center, Southwest Women’s Law Center, and California Women’s Law Center.