Blog Viewer

Lawlines: "Grimm" Outcome?

By Wayne Young posted 03-15-2021 14:13

The nation's longest-running litigation regarding the status of transgender students in public schools may be one step closer to a final resolution. The case of Grimm v. Gloucester County School Board was filed in 2015 by a transgender student at a Virginia high school. It has moved up and down the ladder of federal trial and appellate courts since then, including a brief appearance before the U. S. Supreme Court, which returned the case to the trial court on procedural grounds for further consideration. 

The case has been decided (again) by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in favor of the student (rather, former student. Grimm graduated in 2017). The school board has again filed a writ with the Supreme Court for its review. The high court will decide whether or not to hear the case on its merits.

The Grimm case is one of the original "bathroom" cases, with Grimm seeking to use a restroom based on gender identity, and the board refusing. Since the inception of Grimm's case, there have been dozens of similar federal court cases filed, with a variety of outcomes. The Supreme Court refused to decide the case on its merits when previously asked to do so, but now has another opportunity.

In addition to numerous instances of litigation, the policy of the U. S. Department of Education and the Office of Civil Rights has vacillated during the pendency of the Grimm case. The Obama administration issued guidance to school districts that it would investigate claims of transgender discrimination as violations of Title IX. Soon after that guidance, President Trump was elected and reversed the policy, to the extent of directing the federal agencies not to pursue claims of transgender discrimination.

Upon taking office, President Biden issued an executive order directing federal agencies to once again investigate transgender claims, and to assure that transgender students were free from discrimination in public schools. The Supreme Court touched on the issue as well, ruling that transgender status was a protected class in the context of employment discrimination under Title VII of the Civil rights Act of 1964.

None of these developments have yet established the "law of the land" for the way schools must deal with transgender students. If the Supreme Court decides, at long last, to hear the Grimm case and issue a ruling on the merits, educators and school attorneys may finally have an objective legal standard for addressing the status of transgender students moving forward.