Parties Settle in Landmark ‘Whitaker’ Case for Transgender Student Protections

By Adam Polaski • January 10, 2018 • 10:40 am

This week the parties involved in Whitaker v. Kenosha Unified School District – Kenosha Unified School District in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and Ash Whitaker, a transgender student who graduated in 2017, reached a settlement agreement. The settlement brings an end to the case, which the school district had appealed to the United States Supreme Court. Ash is represented by the Transgender Law Center.

Ash Whitaker and his mother

In May 2017 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit issued a first-of-its-kind decision in the Whitaker case, finding that anti-transgender discrimination amounted to sex discrimination, which is prohibited by Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. The appellate court also found that the school district’s policy barring Ash, a transgender man, from using the men’s restroom at school, violated the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Ash is now studying at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He said this week:

“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. Winning this case was so empowering and made me feel like I can actually do something to help other trans youth live authentically. My message to other trans kids is to respect themselves and accept themselves and love themselves. If someone’s telling you that you don’t deserve that, prove them wrong.”

The court’s opinion made the 7th Circuit the highest court ever to decisively find that Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination based on sex, extends to transgender students. The court wrote: “By definition, a transgender individual does not conform to the sex‐based stereotypes of the sex that he or she was assigned at birth. …  A policy that requires an individual to use a bathroom that does not conform with his or her gender identity punishes that individual for his or her gender non‐conformance, which in turn violates Title IX.”

Kris Hayashi, executive director of Transgender Law Center, added:

“The precedent in the Seventh Circuit is definitive: schools cannot single students out because they are trans. Period.”

The 7th Circuit has jurisdiction over Wisconsin, Indiana, and Illinois.

Read the full history of the case here.

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