Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Lawsuit Filed in Green Wristband Case

Kris blogged earlier about Tremper High School in Kenosha, Wisconsin, which is requiring transgender students to wear bright green wristbands as a way to enforce their exclusion from the bathroom consistent with their gender identity. As Kris noted, a Title IX lawsuit has been filed on behalf of a transgender student who is being targeted by the green wristband rule. Based on the now-public complaint, this post provides some additional detail about the lawsuit.

The plaintiff, identified in the complaint by his initials, A.W., alleges that he was informed of the new green wristband policy at the end of last school year, and expects that he will be required to wear the wristband when school starts again in the fall.  The policy apparently came about after A.W. repeatedly used the boys' bathroom in defiance of school officials' insistence that he use the girls' room or an out-of-the-way single-use stall.

A.W. also alleges that the school denied his male identity by referring to him by his (female) birth name, by refusing to change his name and gender on school records, despite having produced the required doctor's verification of his transgender status. by assigning him to room with girls instead of boys on a school trip, and by initially refusing to let him run for prom king. (School officials eventually let A.W. onto the prom king ballot following a petition and sit-in protest attended by 70 students.)

The lawsuit declares that this conduct by school officials violates Title IX as well as the U.S. Constitution's Equal Protection Clause. It notes that the Department of Education has clearly stated that Title IX requires schools to treat transgender students in a manner consistent with their gender identities, including in the context of bathrooms. It seeks a court order prohibiting the school from excluding him from the boys' bathroom and from otherwise treating him differently from other male-identified students.

Transgender students have won other cases asserting their right to gender-consonant bathroom use. Though not binding on the federal courts in Wisconsin, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals determined that courts should defer to the Department of Education's position under Title IX.  A transgender girl in Maine also won her case seeking access to the girls' restrooms at school, though her case was litigated under Maine state law rather than Title IX.