A Virginia school board urged the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday to weigh in on whether a transgender male must be allowed to use the boys bathroom at his high school, framing it as an issue of national importance.
The Gloucester County School Board wants the justices to review a decision from the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which said the board's policy barring 17-year-old Gavin Grimm from using the restroom that matches his gender identity violates Title IX, a federal law that prohibits discrimination in schools.
At issue is whether the courts should defer to an U.S. Department of Education rule that says transgender students in public schools must be allowed to use restrooms that correspond with their gender identity. In its April ruling, the 4th Circuit said the federal judge who previously rejected Grimm's Title IX discrimination claim wrongly ignored that department rule.
The school board said in its filing Monday that Grimm's case provides an excellent vehicle for "resolving once and for all the current nationwide controversy" over transgender bathroom access. It argues the 4th Circuit was wrong to defer to education department's interpretation of the law, which for years has allowed schools to provide "separate toilet, locker rooms and shower facilities on the basis of sex."
"For decades our nation's schools have structured their facilities and programs around the idea that in certain intimate settings men and women may be separated 'to afford members of each sex privacy form the other sex,'" the school board said in its petition. "The 4th Circuit's decision turns that longstanding expectation upside down."
Josh Block, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union who represents Grimm, said the teen's lawyers look forward to filing their response.
"We hope the court denies review and allows Gavin to finally start using the boys' restroom again," Block said in a statement.
While Grimm won at the appeals court level, he will still be barred from using the boys restroom when he returns to Gloucester High School for his senior year next week. The Supreme Court ruled earlier this month that the school board can require Grimm to use a private restroom until it decides whether to intervene in the case, which will likely happen sometime this fall.
Four of the justices must agree for the court to accept a case, and only about 100 of the thousands of cases the justices are asked to review each year are heard.