A school district that discriminated against a transgender teen by making him go to the bathroom in a converted supply closet will have to pay $1.3 million in attorney’s fees and other costs accrued over years of litigation.
The Gloucester County School Board in Virginia reached a settlement with Gavin Grimm, who was a student in the district in 2014 when the school board held a meeting to create a policy to block him from using the boys restroom. He sued, and the district fought his case for years and filed multiple appeals, stretching it out for years.
“Rather than allow a child equal access to a safe school environment, the Gloucester School Board decided to fight this child for five years in a costly legal battle that they lost,” Grimm said in a statement. “I hope that this outcome sends a strong message to other school systems, that discrimination is an expensive losing battle.”
Grimm started using the boys restroom in his sophomore year, which months later some parents and students complained about. The school board held a meeting where Gavin was called a “freak” and compared to a dog that urinates on fire hydrants.
At that meeting, the board passed a policy that said bathrooms “shall be limited to the corresponding biological genders, and students with gender identity issues shall be provided an alternative appropriate private facility banning him from it.” The school installed a toilet in a closet and called it a unisex restroom.
He said that he avoided using restrooms completely at school, which resulted in a urinary tract infection. He also said that the discrimination led to suicidal thoughts.
Grimm sued with help from the ACLU, saying that his rights under Title IX were violated. Title IX bans discrimination in education “on the basis of sex,” and he argued that the school was treating him worse than other students because of his sex.
The initial court that heard his case dismissed his claim, saying that Title IX doesn’t ban anti-LGBTQ discrimination. What followed were years of appeals and policy changes, as the Obama administration interpreted Title IX as banning anti-LGBTQ discrimination but the Trump administration did not.
The district court in its 2019 ruling said that the school board’s policy violated Title IX as well as the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution. The school board appealed but the appeals court sided with Grimm, citing the Supreme Court ruling in Bostock v. Clayton Co. extensively, which said that Title VII’s ban on job discrimination “because of sex” also bans anti-LGBTQ discrimination.
The Supreme Court, earlier this year, refused to hear the school board’s appeal, so Grimm’s victory stands.
“It should not have taken over six years of expensive litigation to get to this point,” said ACLU attorney Josh Block.
Grimm is now 22-years-old and he said that he won’t get any of the $1.3 million settlement since it’s going to pay for attorneys fees.
Being a millionaire would solve like 99.9 out of 100 of my problems, but unfortunately that is not how these things work!
— Gavin Grimm 🏳️⚧️ (@GavinGrimmVA) August 27, 2021