The Martinsville school district must continue to allow a transgender middle school student to use the restroom that aligns with his gender identity after a federal court declined to put a stay on its preliminary injunction in favor of the student.
The Metropolitan School District of Martinsville and the principal of John R. Wooden Middle School had filed an expedited motion for stay of the preliminary injunction entered last month in favor of 13-year-old A.C. The injunction required the school district to allow A.C. — who was born female but now identifies as male — to use the boys’ restroom facilities on campus.
The Indiana Southern District Court denied the motion for a stay Monday in A.C., a minor child by his next friend, mother and legal guardian, M.C. v. Metropolitan School District of Martinsville, and Principal, John R. Wooden Middle School in his official capacity, 1:21-cv-02965.
In imposing the injunction on Martinsville schools, Chief Judge Tanya Walton Pratt relied on Whitaker ex rel. Whitaker v. Kenosha Unified School District No. 1 Bd. of Education, 858 F.3d 1034 (7th Cir. 2017), which held that “a school policy that subjects transgender students to different rules, sanctions, and treatment than non-transgender students violates Title IX” of the Education Amendments of 1972.
But the school district argued, both as it related to the injunction and to the motion to stay, that the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, 141 S. Ct. 1731 (2020), “with[eld] determination on facility distinctions between the sexes under Title IX for a different day and invit[ed] legal arguments and more thorough briefing on Title IX.”
Also, the school district argued Whitaker is distinct from the instant case, and the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals would likely distinguish the cases on appeal.
But according to Pratt’s Monday order, “Whitaker remains good law, is directly on point and dictates the result here.”
She said the school district’s alleged harm — that having the injunction reversed on appeal would be “disruptive” — was “both unsupported by any evidence and appears questionable given that the School District allows other transgender students to use the restrooms associated with their gender identity.”
“Moreover, as argued by A.C., the school year ends in a matter of days — on May 26, 2022 — which is less than the three weeks during which A.C. used the boys’ restrooms without incident earlier this year,” the chief judge continued.
While the district court declined to stay the injunction pending appeal, an order from the 7th Circuit “indicates that the order appealed from may not be ready for appellate review.”
“In their notice of appeal, appellants state that they seek review of the district court’s order issued on April 29, 2022. That order granted plaintiff’s motion for a preliminary injunction,” a May 4 order from the appellate court states. “But, the district court has to date failed to enter the injunction as a separate document under Rule 65(d)(1)(C).”
The 7th Circuit ordered the parties to file a memorandum stating why the case should not be returned to the Indiana Southern District Court “to seek and obtain an injunction order that complies with the requirement of Fed. R. Civ. P. 65 (d)(1)(C).”
In its memorandum, the school district argued the case should not be remanded because “the order being appealed satisfies the written requirements of Rule 65(d), as it states the reasons why it is issued, states its terms specifically, and describes the acts being restrained in reasonable detail.”
But A.C., in a memorandum filed Tuesday, said, “There is no reason here to deviate from the Circuit’s rule that a standalone preliminary injunction order should be entered to comply with Rule 65(d) and a limited remand should issue for such an injunction to be entered by the district court.”
The case in the 7th Circuit is A.C. v. Metropolitan School District of Martinsville, et al., 22-1786.