A federal judge has ruled in favor of a transgender elementary school student seeking to use the restroom consistent with her gender identity, marking the latest such decision in disputes between schools and students on the issue.
In a 43-page decision, U.S. District Judge Algenon Marbley, a Clinton appointee, found denying the student, identified as Jane Doe, from using the restroom consistent with her gender identity violates Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, a law barring gender discrimination in schools.
Marbley orders Highland Elementary School to “treat Jane Doe as the girl she is,” which includes referring to her by female pronouns in addition to allowing her to use the girl’s restroom.
The ruling is the result of a lawsuit the school filed in June seeking to overturn an order from the Obama administration requiring officials to treat Jane Doe consistent with her gender identity. In response to the lawsuit, attorneys representing Jane Doe filed a lawsuit seeking an order requiring the school to comply with the Obama administration.
Writing Jane Doe would be “irreparably harmed absent an injunction,” Marbley grants the request made by her attorneys, but denies the request for a preliminary injunction in favor of the school.
“The stigma and isolation Jane feels when she is singled out and forced to use a separate bathroom contribute to and exacerbate her mental-health challenges,” Marbley writes. “This is a clear case of irreparable harm to an eleven-year-old girl.”
The decision comes on the heels of a ruling last week from a federal judge in Wisconsin ordering Kenosha Unified School District to allow a male transgender student to use the restroom consistent with his gender identity.
The ruling also follows an order from a federal court in Texas enjoining the Obama administration from enforcing guidance instructing schools to allow transgender students to use the restroom consistent with their gender identity. (Marbley’s decision comes on the same day the judge ordered a hearing on Friday to clarify the scope of the decision in response to a request from the Justice Department.)
Representing Jane Doe in the case is the National Center for Lesbian Rights as well as the Cleveland-based law firm Hickman & Lowder and the New York-based law firm Debevoise & Plimpton LLP. The U.S. Justice Department and Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Vanita Gupta are named as defendants.
Asaf Orr, who represented Jane Doe as a staff attorney for the National Center for Lesbian Rights’ transgender youth project, said the decision is consistent with ensuring all students are free from discrimination at school.
“Every student has a right to be free from discrimination and harassment while at school, and we are pleased the court has taken this important step in protecting Jane Doe’s rights,” Orr said. “As the case proceeds, we will continue to vigorously work to protect our client’s rights.”
Representing Highland Elementary School is West Chester, Ohio-based Langdon Law, the Mansfield, Ohio-based Renwick, Welsh & Burton LLC and the anti-LGBT Alliance Defending Freedom.
Attorneys representing the schools have already filed notice with the court indicating they intend to appeal the decision to the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.