RICHMOND, Va. -- A Virginia school board says its policy prohibiting a transgender student from using the boys' restrooms is not discriminatory and was not enacted to stigmatize or embarrass the teenager.
The Gloucester County School Board defended its policy this week in court papers arguing that a lawsuit filed by 16-year-old Gavin Grimm should be dismissed. A hearing is set for July 20 in U.S. District Court in Newport News on Grimm's motion for a preliminary injunction barring enforcement of the policy.
Grimm was born female but identifies and lives as a male. According to his complaint, he has been diagnosed as having gender dysphoria, a medical condition characterized by distress stemming from conflict between a person's general identity and the person's assigned sex at birth. He has not had gender reassignment surgery but has been receiving hormone treatments to give him a more masculine appearance and voice.
In the lawsuit, he claims he used the boys' restrooms at Gloucester High School without incident until the board, responding to complaints from parents, adopted a policy in December stating that "students with gender identity issues" will be provided an alternate, private facility.
"To avoid the stigma of having to use separate restrooms, Gavin has tried to avoid using any restroom during the school day," the lawsuit filed on Grimm's behalf by the American Civil Liberties Union says.
But the school board argued in Tuesday's brief that the only federal case similar to Grimm's supports the board's position. In that case, a judge ruled that the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown did not discriminate against a transgender student who was barred from men's facilities.
"The School Board has a responsibility to its students to ensure their privacy while engaging in personal bathroom functions," the board's attorney wrote. "This is particularly true in an environment where children are still developing, both emotionally and physically."
The board says it has established three single-stall, unisex restrooms that any student can use.
"Under this policy, Plaintiff is treated the same as his fellow students," the brief says.
The U.S. Justice Department has taken Grimm's side in the dispute. The department filed a statement of interest last week stating that transgender students must be allowed to use the restroom that corresponds with their gender identity.