U.S. District Court Judge William T. Lawrence today issued a ruling which determined that the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation (EVSC) violated a transgender high school student’s rights. EVSC refused to allow the student to use the male restrooms, the restrooms consistent with his gender identity. The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana sued the EVSC in February 2018, on behalf of J.A.W., who was denied the ability to use these restrooms and faced discipline if he attempted to do so.
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.
Judge Lawrence ruled that the denial of J.A.W.’s right 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). Judge Lawrence stated further that “J.A.W. has pointed to evidence that stands unrefuted that EVSC’s practice could not be stated without referencing sex and that the practice treated transgender students like J.A.W. differently.”
“Many Indiana school corporations already allow students to use the restroom consistent with their gender identity,” said Ken Falk, ACLU of Indiana Legal Director. “But for those schools that continue to have discriminatory policies in place, they should heed this decision and create an academic environment that is accommodating of all students.”
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. A trial will be set to determine damages.
“I hope this ruling leads the way for Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation, along with other Indiana schools, to create a safe place for kids,” said ACLU of Indiana Advocate and Educator, Kit Malone. “Being a high school student is hard enough without having to endure the additional emotional hardships that arise 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.