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Gavin Grimm v. Gloucester County School Board

Case Concerning Restroom Access for Transgender Students

Key Date: June 28, 2021 • U.S. Supreme Court Declines Review
Legal Team: ACLU
Type: Transgender Student Cases

Case Overview:

Gavin Grimm v. Gloucester County School Board is a case concerning discrimination based on gender identity or expression in schools. After allowing him to use the boys’ restroom for seven months, Gloucester County Schools in Virginia passed a policy refusing to respect the gender identity of transgender students, including Gavin Grimm, a transgender boy who graduated in June 2017.

This case is about respecting transgender students for who they are and is a part of the growing legislative and legal momentum against restricting restroom access for transgender Americans.

The case is being led by the ACLU. In 2017 the case proceeded all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, with the school board appealing a ruling from the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals that deferred to White House administrative guidance on transgender students. In February 2016 President Trump’s administration withdrew the guidance that the 4th Circuit based its decision on, and so Gavin’s case was sent back to the lower court, with the victory from the 4th Circuit vacated.

Grimm again won in district and appeals court, and the case is currently petitioned to the U.S. Supreme Court asking for review.

Latest in the Case:

On June 28, 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the case, effectively terminating the litigation. The Gloucester County School Board subsequently announced it would settle with Grimm for $1.5 million to cover legal fees.

Case History

  • October, 2014: Gavin Grimm, a student at a Virginia public high school, begins to use the boys’ restroom at his school after informing the school at the beginning of his sophomore year that he is transgender. After using the boys’ restroom for two months without incident, an anonymous complaint from a parent results in the issue going before the Gloucester County School Board.
  • December 9, 2014: The school board votes 6-1 to institute a policy restricting restroom usage, and only allowing students to use the facilities that correspond to their “biological sex,” despite warnings from the ACLU that such a policy would be unlawful.
  • June 11, 2015: The ACLU files suit against the school board in federal court, arguing that the board’s policy violates both Title IX and the 14th Amendment.
  • June 30, 2015: The U.S. Department of Justice officially backs Grimm in his suit, citing guidance given to schools on how best to accommodate transgender students.
  • July 27, 2015: Judge Robert Donmar of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia grants a motion to dismiss Grimm’s Title IX complaint filed by the school board and denies Grimm’s request for a preliminary injunction to stop the school board’s policy pending trial.
  • October 25, 2015: The ACLU files an appeal in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals .
  • April 19, 2016: The Fourth Circuit overturns Judge Donmar’s decision and remands the case back to District Court, ruling that, as the federal guidance indicated, the board’s policy violates Title IX. This marks the first time a federal court has ruled that Title IX’s prohibition of sex discrimination also bars discrimination based on a student’s gender identity.
  • June 23, 2016: The District Court rules that the school board must allow Gavin to use the boys’ restrooms and locker rooms at his school.
  • August 3, 2016: The U.S. Supreme Court grants a stay of the District Court’s ruling at the school board’s request, as the Court decides whether or not to grant review of the case.
  • October 28, 2016: The U.S. Supreme Court grants review, scheduling arguments for March 28, 2017.
  • February 22, 2017: The Trump Administration revokes the guidance previously issued by the Obama-era Department of Justice regarding accommodations for transgender students.
  • March 6, 2017: Citing the revocation of DOJ guidance, which was at the heart of the 4th Circuit’s ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court issues an order vacating its decision to review the case, remanding it back to the 4th Circuit Court for further consideration. The 4th Circuit subsequently sends the case back to the District Court.
  • May 22, 2018: Federal District Court Judge Arenda L. Wright-Allen, to whom the case has been reassigned, denies the school board’s motion to dismiss, ruling that, even though Grimm has now graduated, he still has a valid claim of discrimination under Title IX and that the suit can move forward.
  • August 9, 2019: Federal District Court Judge Arenda M. Wright Allen rules in favor of Gavin. The judge writes, “There is no question that the Board’s policy discriminates against transgender students on the basis of their gender noncomformity. … The Court concludes that the Board has discriminated against Gavin Grimm on the basis of his transgender status in violation of Title IX.”
  • August 19, 2019: The school district says it will appeal the ruling, although it plans to issue Gavin a transcript with a male gender marker and his correct name, as ordered by the district court. 
  • October 22, 2019: The school district’s opening brief before the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals is due. A response from the ACLU  is due November 21, 2019.
  • August 26, 2020: The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals rules in favor of Gavin on all his claims.
  • February 19, 2021: The school district again files a petition with the United States Supreme Court asking them to hear the case.
  • June 28, 2021: The U.S. Supreme Court denies review, terminating the litigation after more than 6 years.

Last Updated September 16, 2021

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