ACLU Files Discrimination Complaint Against School For Policy Restricting Bathroom Use of Transgender Student

January 2015
School Law Newsletter

The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia (ACLU) recently filed a complaint against Gloucester County Public Schools, alleging discrimination against a transgender student.  The complaint alleges the school’s policy restricting bathroom facilities available to transgender students discriminates against the transgender student on the basis of sex.  The school policy provides that transgender students can only use single-stall bathrooms or facilities assigned to their biological gender. 

The ACLU complaint claims that the transgender student was isolated and outcast by the policy.  Rebecca Greenberg, legal director of the ACLU of Virginia, stated “consigning transgender students to segregated bathrooms prevents them from participating in school activities on an equal basis and causes exclusion and isolation.”  The complaint alleges that transgender bathroom policies exclude students from school programs or activities on the basis of sex, which violates Title IX.

This is not the first discrimination suit against a school based on transgender bathroom policies.  In June of 2013, the Colorado civil rights division found that a school discriminated against a transgender elementary student by refusing to let her use the girl’s restroom, despite clearly identifying as a female.  The division concluded that the Fountain-Fort Carson School District needlessly created a situation in which the transgender student was subjected to harassment by barring her from using the girls restroom. Steven Chavez, Colorado civil rights division director said that telling the girl “she must disregard her identity while performing one of the most essential human functions constitutes severe and pervasive treatment, and creates an environment that is objectively and subjectively hostile, intimidating, or offensive.”

What You Need To Know

Civil rights groups will pursue discrimination claims against schools on behalf of transgender students discriminated against “because of sex.”  Schools should be mindful of policies that treat transgender students differently than other students based on sex, such as limiting bathroom facilities available to them.  Schools should consult with legal counsel about the development of policies to address transgender student issues.