News (USA)

School district settles landmark trans rights case with former student

School district settles landmark trans rights case with former student
Melissa Whitaker, left, and her son Ash. Photo: Transgender Law Center

In July 2016, Ashton Whitaker, a 16 year-old transgender student in Wisconsin, sued his school district after it wouldn’t let him use the boys’ restrooms and repeatedly used his female birth name.

After repeated court losses, including a landmark federal appeals court decision that upheld his right to use the boys’ restroom, the Kenosha Unified School District decided to settle the case and drop their appeal to the US Supreme Court. The appeals court ruling came days before he graduated high school in 2017.

Related: Transgender student sues Wisconsin school district for discrimination

The lawsuit alleged the district has denied him access to boys’ restrooms and directed staff to monitor his restroom usage and forced him and other transgender students to wear green wristbands to help staff recognize them. As a result, Whitaker drastically reduced his liquid intake, aggravating a medical condition that causes him to faint, and suffered stress migraines.

The appeals court ruling only applied to Whitaker, however, and not the entire student body.

The district will shell out $800,000 in the settlement. Whitaker will recieve $150,000 while the rest will go to attorneys’ costs. It will also allow him to use the men’s restroom if he returns to campus as an alumnus.

The school district’s lawyer, Ronald Stadler, told BuzzFeed News that they decided to settle the case because of the “insurance company’s concern over the legal developments, the mounting costs of defending the claim and ultimately a risk of having to contribute toward Whitaker’s significant attorneys’ fees.”

Related: Latest landmark federal court ruling supports trans students

“I am deeply relieved that this long, traumatic part of my life is finally over and I can focus on my future and simply being a college student,” Whitaker said in a statement released by his attorneys.

“Winning this case was so empowering and made me feel like I can actually do something to help other trans youth live authentically.”

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