School hit with $1.3 million legal bill in Gavin Grimm case

A school district that discriminated against transgender teen Gavin Grimm, 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 six years of litigation.

The Gloucester County School Board in Virginia reached a settlement with Grimm, who was a student in the district in 2014 when the school board met to create a policy to ban him from using the boys' bathroom.

Grimm had started using the boys' restroom in his sophomore year, but some parents and students complained, resulting in a school policy that required students to only use the restroom of their birth-assigned or "biological" gender.

“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 has since revealed that he avoided using restrooms completely at school, which resulted in a urinary tract infection and that the discrimination led to him having suicidal thoughts.

Grimm sued through 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.

It comes as the Supreme Court left in place a decision that allowed a transgender student to use the bathroom that corresponded to his gender identity, a victory for the LGBTQ community.

"I am glad that my years-long fight to have my school see me for who I am is over. Being forced to use the nurse's room, a private bathroom, and the girl's room was humiliating for me, and having to go to out-of-the-way bathrooms severely interfered with my education," Grimm, now 22, said in a statement.

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a Virginia school board's appeal to reinstate its transgender bathroom ban, handing a victory not just to Grimm, who fought in court for six years to overturn the ban, but to transgender rights groups nationally.

After learning that the high court refused to hear the board's appeal, Gavin Grimm, now 22, said that his long battle is over. “We won," he tweeted. “Honored to have been part of this victory," he added.

Grimm was a 15-year-old student at Gloucester High School when he was banned from using the boys bathroom. Grimm said that being forced to use the nurse's room, a private bathroom and the girl's restroom was humiliating interfered with his education.

“This is a national conversation because trans people are everywhere and because we have to fight for our rights in like most of the states in our nation still who have not passed affirming policies," Grimm told The Associated Press.

The ACLU represented Grimm in the lawsuit and argued that federal law makes it clear transgender students are protected from discrimination.

David Corrigan, an attorney for the school board, declined to comment on the decision. In its petition asking the Supreme Court to hear the case, the school board argued that federal laws protect against discrimination based on sex, not gender identity. Because Grimm had not undergone sex-reassignment surgery and still had female genitalia, the board's position had been that he remained anatomically a female.

A U.S. District Court judge and the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals both ruled that the board's policy violated Title IX, a federal law barring sex-based discrimination in schools that receives federal money. They also found it violated the U.S. Constitution's Equal Protection Clause by prohibiting Grimm from using the same restrooms as other boys.

Paul D. Castillo, an attorney for the LGBT rights group Lambda Legal, said that five states are technically bound by the 4th Circuit decision: Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.

Photo courtesy of Jose Cuervo

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