Transgender student seeks injunction in bathrooms lawsuit

A federal judge is weighing whether to grant a preliminary injunction to allow an Evansville transgender student to use male bathrooms.

U.S. District Judge William Lawrence heard the injunction request Friday in Evansville. The request was made by the 17-year-old student who is suing Evansville Vanderburgh School Corp. over student bathroom availability, the Evansville Courier & Press reported.

The student, who identifies as male, said he feels ostracized by his peers because he must use either the female restroom or small unisex bathrooms in the nurse’s office. The lawsuit argues the student’s rights under the 14th Amendment and Title IX are being violated.

Superintendent David Smith said he would allow the student to use the male restroom if his birth certificate changed to identify him as male.

But the student was born in a state that does not change birth certificate gender identification unless a surgery takes place, said Ken Falk, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana. The ACLU filed the lawsuit in February on behalf of the teen.

“Indiana law says we enroll children based on birth certificates,” said Pat Shoulders, the district’s attorney. “Sex is assigned by health authorities. It’s assigned by the motor vehicle department. The school district doesn’t want to be put in a position of second-guessing that or making a decision different than those made by legal authorities.”

The district policy has caused “harm and distress” to the student, who is taking hormones under a physician’s care to develop male characteristics, Falk said. The student “is a young man and should be treated as such,” Falk said.

The judge didn't immediately rule on the preliminary injunction request Friday, but he said he plans to do so soon, possibly before the district resumes classes on Aug. 8.

The district sought the lawsuit’s dismissal in June, but the judge ruled it could move forward.

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