The Talbot County, Md., Public Schools and attorneys representing a male transgender student reached a settlement on Monday in a 2016 lawsuit filed by the then 14-year-old student challenging his school’s refusal to allow him to use the boys locker room and bathrooms.
The settlement allows Max Brennan, who’s now 16, to freely use the boys’ restrooms and locker room at St. Michaels Middle High School in Talbot County, Md. His attorneys with the ACLU and the Maryland LGBT advocacy group Free State Justice consider the settlement a major victory for transgender rights.
It follows a ruling in March by a U.S. District Court judge finding that the school district’s policy banning Brennan from using the bathrooms or locker room consistent with his gender identity violated Title IX of the U.S. Education Act of 1972, which prohibits sex discrimination.
“The settlement agreement is a resolution of the parties’ claims without any finding of liability,” Free State Justice said in a statement released on Monday. “However, in the agreement the defendants acknowledge the likelihood of liability in light of the Court’s Memorandum and Order dated March 12, 2018,” the statement says.
It was referring to the ruling by U.S. District Court Judge George L. Russell III in March denying the school district’s motion to dismiss the case and declaring that transgender students cannot be barred from sex segregated school restrooms or locker rooms that align with their gender identity under Title IX.
“Under the settlement agreement, Max will have permanent access to restrooms, locker rooms, and other facilities owned and/or operated by the Board of Education that are otherwise designated for boys or men,” Free State Justice says in its statement.
“Bringing this lawsuit has been a long journey that I hope will be able to help other transgender students in the future,” Brennan said in the statement. “I couldn’t be happier with how everything turned out and I am extremely hopeful for the future,” he said.
Jennifer Kent, Managing Attorney for Free State Justice, said the court ruling in March and Monday’s settlement would have a positive impact on similar transgender cases in the future.
“Though today’s case is over, Max’s bravery continues to ensure that students who are transgender are protected under the law,” Kent said. “Because of Max, Maryland school districts are now on notice that subjecting students who are transgender to separate and unequal treatment is illegal, pure and simple.”
Kent noted that the Talbot County Public Schools began to back down on the restrictions it initially placed on Brennan last year by allowing him to use the boys’ bathrooms but not the boys’ locker room. Then earlier this year following Judge Russell’s ruling the school district told Brennan he could also begin to use the boys’ locker room on a temporary basis while the school system continued to claim it had the authority to revoke its position.
Now, Kent points out, the settlement gives Brennan and other trans students the permanent right to use the bathroom or locker room consistent with their gender identity.