US Department of Justice: Protections for Transgender Students Are in the Public Interest

Jul 06, 2015

Transgender students have the right to use restrooms that align with their Gender identity, according to a far-reaching, landmark brief written by the U.S. Department of Justice. The brief, submitted in support of a lawsuit by Gavin Grimm, a Virginia transgender high school student, states that a fair resolution of the case is “in the public interest” of the United States. Grimm, who used male restrooms without incident for the first seven weeks of school, was blocked from doing so when the Gloucester County Public Schools instated a policy that barred Grimm from the boys’ room because he was not “biologically male.” The brief contends that this policy runs afoul of protections under federal law, most notably, Title IX, a civil rights law which prohibits discrimination based on sex in federally funded education programs. Language in the brief, cited below, is unequivocal in support of the rights of Gavin and other students to use the restroom that is in accordance with their gender identity. Text below has been emphasized by Gender Spectrum:

Discrimination based on a person’s gender identity, a person’s transgender status, or a person’s nonconformity to sex stereotypes constitutes discrimination based on sex. As such, prohibiting a student from accessing the restrooms that match his gender identity is prohibited sex discrimination under Title IX. There is a public interest in ensuring that all students, including transgender students, have the opportunity to learn in an environment free of sex discrimination. The term “sex” as it is used in Title IX is broad and encompasses gender identity, including transgender status. In Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, the Supreme Court flatly rejected the notion that “sex” encompasses only one’s biological status as male or female, concluding, instead, that sex discrimination also encompasses differential treatment based on one’s failure to conform to socially-constructed gender expectations. Title IX prohibits sex discrimination based on the perception that an individual has undergone, or is undergoing a gender transition. Allowing transgender students to use the restrooms consistent with their gender identity will help prevent stigma that results in bullying and harassment and will ensure that the District fosters a safe and supportive learning environment for all students, a result that is unquestionably in the public interest.

Gender Spectrum applauds the Department of Justice for submitting a brief that upholds the rights of all students to attend school and be treated with full respect for who they are. The brief is a welcome addition to transgender-inclusive advisories released by both the Department of Justice and the Department of Education under President Obama. Together, they provide a strong legal foundation for what we at Gender Spectrum know to be true in our work with schools: It is well within the means of all schools to fully affirm the gender identity of individual students. To do so is not only the right thing to do to support all students, it is a legal imperative. More information about protections for transgender and gender expansive youth and links to federal advisories can be found on the Gender Spectrum website. Click here to read the full brief from the full brief by the U.S. Department of Justice.