INDIANPOLIS – Late on Friday, August 3, U.S. District Judge William T. Lawrence issued a ruling requiring that the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation allow a transgender high school student, J.A.W., to use male restrooms, the restrooms consistent with his gender identity. The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana sued the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation in February, on behalf of J.A.W., who was denied the ability to use these restrooms and faced discipline if he attempted to do so.
Judge Lawrence ruled that the preliminary injunction was justified as J.A.W. was likely to prevail in his claim that denial of his ability to use the male restrooms violated both the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, 20 U.S.C. § 1681(a).
He stated further that “The likely negative emotional consequences of being denied access to the boys’ restrooms at school would constitute irreparable harm to J.A.W.” J.A.W. has been diagnosed with gender dysphoria, is under a physician’s care, and is taking hormone therapy. Despite the fact that J.A.W has long identified himself as male, he was informed by school administrators that he was not allowed to use the male restrooms.
“Today’s decision affirms that denying a student his right to use the correct restroom is discrimination, plain and simple,” said Ken Falk, ACLU of Indiana Legal Director. “This is consistent with the great wealth of authority and many Indiana school corporations follow the law in this regard. I would hope that with this decision those Indiana school corporations that continue to have discriminatory policies in place will take heed and change them without the need for litigation.”
Students such as J.A.W., who are denied access to the correct restroom, may confront increased bullying and may avoid using the restroom altogether while in school.
“Schools should be a safe place for kids and the refusal to allow a student to use the correct restroom can be extremely emotionally damaging,” said ACLU of Indiana Advocate and Educator, Kit Malone. “Today’s ruling will help ensure that J.A.W. does not have to endure the emotional hardships, and often increased bullying, that arises from such discrimination.”
The ACLU of Indiana has a long history of defending LGBTQ community members and continues to work to ensure that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people can live openly without discrimination and enjoy equal rights, personal autonomy and freedom of expression and association.