NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — A school board in Virginia will continue to defend its transgender bathroom ban, arguing in court filings Friday that a federal appeals court should decide if it violated the rights of former student Gavin Grimm.
The board’s request follows a legal defeat last week in U.S. District Court in Norfolk. Judge Arenda Wright Allen wrote that the board’s policies violated Grimm’s constitutional rights and other federal protections when it banned him from using boys bathrooms.
The Gloucester County School Board will first need the judge’s permission to appeal. Then the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals must agree to hear the case.
In a rare moment of agreement, Grimm’s attorneys with the ACLU said they also want the appeals court to weigh in.
“We have no problem with that,” said Joshua Block, an ACLU attorney representing Grimm.
A decision by the higher court would have legal ramifications in federal courts in Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia and Virginia.
“We think the vast majority of courts have already ruled that these sorts of discriminatory polices violate (federal and constitutional protections),” Block said. “And we’re confident the 4th Circuit would agree.”
David Corrigan, an attorney representing the school board, announced the board’s decision to seek the appeal in a brief statement to the media. He said the board and its attorneys would make no further comment.
The board’s filing is yet another chapter in Grimm’s circuitous and yearslong legal battle with the school board.
Grimm first filed suit in 2015 as a student in Gloucester High School, which is about an hour east or Richmond. The school board’s policy barred him from using the bathroom of his choice.
Grimm and his lawyers have argued that the policy violated his rights under the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause as well as federal Title IX protections against gender-based discrimination.
In 2015, a different federal judge initially sided with the school board. Then the 4th Circuit appeals court ruled in Grimm’s favor, citing a directive issued by the Obama administration that said students can choose bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity.
The school board appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. But it backed out of hearing the case after the Trump administration pulled back that guidance.
The case briefly returned to the 4th Circuit. But it sent the case back to a lower court in Norfolk to decide whether it had become moot. Grimm had graduated in June 2017.
Last week, the U.S. District Court judge in Norfolk denied the school board’s request to dismiss the case, writing that the board’s policies “singled out and stigmatized Mr. Grimm.”