MARTINSVILLE, Ind. — The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana has ordered the Metropolitan School District of Martinsville to allow a 13-year-old transgender student the use of the boys’ bathroom at John R. Wooden Middle School.
The injunction requiring the middle school to provide equal treatment to the transgender student came in response to a lawsuit filed against the school district by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana (ACLU) and Indiana Legal Services after the transgender seventh-grader was denied access to the boys’ bathroom at John R. Wooden Middle School.
“We are happy that, with this order, our client will have the same opportunities as his peers to learn, grow, and succeed at school,” said Megan Stuart, case attorney for Indiana Legal Services. “His worries should be about things like homework and friendships, not whether he can use a restroom.”
The court ruled that preventing the student from using the school restroom based on the student’s gender identity violated Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution.
“The law is clear: denying transgender students their right to use the correct restroom is discrimination,” said Stevie Pactor, ACLU of Indiana Attorney. “We hope that public schools and legislators will take notice and forgo future challenges by providing equal treatment to all students.”
The injunction was issued by U.S. District Cheif Judge Tanya Walton Pratt.
The judge’s order detailed that the student, who was designated a female at birth, realized he had identified as a boy since he was 8 years old. He has been clinically diagnosed with gender dysphoria, is under a physician’s care, and was granted permission to legally change his name, the judge wrote.
When the student originally began attending John. R. Wooden Middle School he was offered the use of the school’s single-sex restroom in the clinic, but it was determined by the student to not be convenient due to how far it was located from his classes along with singling him out from his peers. The student was marked tardy several times due to the distance between the restroom and his classes, the court documents state.
The student began to suffer from anxiety, depression and stigmatization as a result of his exclusion and when his stepfather asked the school to allow the student to use the boys’ restroom the school district denied his request.
The court documents state a transgender advocate was brought in to discuss the student’s rights with members of the school. The middle school principal still denied the student’s use of the boys’ bathroom, however, but reportedly extended an offer to allow the student to switch to remote learning or to dismiss the student’s tardiness to class.
Contrary to the school district’s decision, the court documents state the student began using the boys’ restroom and during the three weeks that followed grew more comfortable and felt better about himself. No issues or complaints were reported from classmates either, the court stated. A staff member, however, witnessed the student using the boys’ bathroom and reported him to the school administration.
After being called to the principal’s office, the student was told they could either use the girls’ restroom or the single-sex bathroom in the school’s clinic as before. The student was told continuing to use the boys’ bathroom would lead to punishment.
The student’s family states the boy’s education has become disrupted because of the school’s decision and that he comes home depressed and humiliated and that he “dreads going to school.”
In the court’s decision, Judge Pratt stated evidence has been provided of the harm the student will likely suffer by the decision to withhold his right to use the bathroom from him while the school district’s alleged potential harm is unsupported.
“The School District’s concerns with the privacy of other students appear entirely conjectural,” Judge Pratt wrote. “No evidence was provided to support the School District’s concerns, and other courts dealing with similar defenses have also dismissed them as unfounded.”
The judge stated that in the matter of privacy, the court believes granting the student access to the boys’ bathroom does not threaten the privacy of others. The restrooms in the middle school have stalls and are often areas where people are private and minimally expose themselves, the court concluded.
In conclusion, the judge stated that due to the student demonstrating he will likely suffer irreparable harm and the school district failing to support their claims of prospective harm, the court ruled in granting the injunction that orders the John R. Wooden Middle School to allow the student the use of the boys’ bathroom while litigation in the case continues.