The U.S. Court of Appeals for 7th Circuit in Chicago, just ruled that both the
Constitution and federal law protect trans students from school-based
discrimination. 17-year‐old high school senior Ashton “Ash” Whitaker requested
to use the boy’s bathroom at his school but was denied those facilities, instead
made to use the girls or gender-neutral bathroom in the school’s main office. With
his mom, Ash sued his Kenosha Unified School District for violating the U.S.
Constitution’s “guarantee of equality” and Title IX of the Education Amendments
of 1972, which forbids any school that is receiving federal funding from sex
discrimination. The 7th Circuit agreed with both of Ash’s points and made Ash’s
school accommodate his request.
“Here, the School District’s policy cannot be stated without referencing sex, as the
School District decides which bathroom a student may use based upon the sex
listed on the student’s birth certificate,” U.S. Circuit Judge Ann Claire Williams
wrote for the three-judge panel she sat on. “This policy is inherently based upon a
sex‐classification, and heightened review applies.”
The so-called “bathroom laws” and how they are applied to our transgendered
citizens was a highly contested issue prior to Donald Trump becoming the
President of the U.S. Many believe the issue will gain even bigger attention seeing
the conservative nature of the new President’s policies (who knows where our
newest Commander in Chief will set in his crosshairs next?). Regardless of
Trump’s possible changes or hindrances, Ash’s case marks the first time a federal
appeals court has held to both Title IX and the 14th Amendment regarding a
transgendered person, and a student specifically. The ramifications of the higher
courts’ ruling could impact trans persons for the future across the U.S., be they
students or not.
The 7th Circuit Court covers the states of Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin, the state
where Ash attends school.