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Judge sides with transgender teen, declines to dismiss suit

Gloucester County High School senior Gavin Grimm, a transgender student, arrives for a news conference in Richmond, Va., Monday, March 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — A federal judge on Tuesday sided with a transgender teen in Virginia who claims a school board violated his rights when it banned him from using boys’ bathrooms.

U.S. District Court Judge Arenda Wright Allen declined the Gloucester County School Board’s request to dismiss the case filed by former student Gavin Grimm, writing that the board’s policies “singled out and stigmatized Mr. Grimm.”

The judge in Norfolk ordered lawyers for both sides to schedule a settlement conference in the next 30 days.

In a brief statement, the school board said it continues to believe that its handling of the matter “fully considered the interests of all students and parents in the Gloucester County school system.”

Joshua Block, an ACLU attorney representing Grimm, said Grimm is seeking nominal damages from the school board and the admission that its bathroom policy was illegal.

“Maybe the school board will give up at this point or maybe they’ll want to keep appealing,” Block said. “But I do know that Gavin has, from the beginning, been so dedicated to this because he’s wanted to make sure other kids are protected.”

The case has continued on a circuitous path well after Grimm’s graduation in June 2017 from Gloucester High School, which is about an hour east of Richmond.

A different federal judge initially sided with the school board in 2015. Then an appeals court ruled in Grimm’s favor, citing a directive issued by the Obama Administration that said students can choose bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity.

The U.S. Supreme Court backed out of hearing the case after the Trump Administration pulled back that guidance. Grimm’s case was sent back to U.S. District Court.

In her 30-page opinion, Wright wrote that Grimm’s lawyers successfully argued that the school board violated his rights under the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause as well as federal Title IX protections against gender-based discrimination. She wrote that the board’s argument “rings hollow” that it was protecting students’ privacy rights, including Grimm’s.

The judge noted that other courts have since made similar conclusions. She also noted that since Grimm filed his suit, his state identification card and his birth certificate now list him as being male.

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