Grimm v. Gloucester County School Board, No. 19-1952 (4th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 can protect transgender students from school bathroom policies that prohibit them from affirming their gender.
Plaintiff, a transgender male, filed suit alleging that the school board's bathroom policy, which excluded him from the boys bathrooms, violated the Equal Protection Clause and constituted discrimination on the basis of sex in violation of Title IX. Plaintiff subsequently amended his complaint to add that the school board's refusal to amend his school records similarly violates both equal protection and Title IX.
After rejecting the school board's threshold challenges, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of plaintiff. The court held that the school board's restroom policy constitutes sex-based discrimination and, independently, that transgender persons constitute a quasi-suspect class. Applying heightened scrutiny, the court held that the school board's policy is not substantially related to its important interest in protecting students' privacy. The court also held that the school board's continued refusal to update plaintiff's school records similarly violates his equal protection rights where the school board's decision is not substantially related to its important interest in maintaining accurate records because his legal gender in the state of Virginia is male, not female. In regard to the Title IX claims, the court held that the bathroom policy discriminated against plaintiff on the basis of sex and that plaintiff suffered legally cognizable harm based on the unlawful discrimination. Likewise, the school board's failure to amend plaintiff's school records violated Title IX.
Finally, the court noted that the proudest moments of the federal judiciary have been when it affirms the burgeoning values of our bright youth, rather than preserves the prejudices of the past.