After seven years of fighting Gavin Grimm, a trans man who was banned from using the correct bathroom at school, has finally received a $1.3 million payout from the school board that discriminated against him.
In 2014, when he was just 15 years old, Grimm first told Virginia’s Gloucester County School Board: “All I want to do is be a normal child and use the restroom in peace.”
But his simple request saw him pushed all the way to the Supreme Court and into the centre of a national debate on trans people’s very right to exist.
When the school board blocked Grimm from using the boys’ bathrooms at his school, and left him “stigmatised and isolated” by forcing him to use his own private bathroom, the then-teenager sued for discrimination.
Represented by the ACLU and ACLU of Virginia, Grimm contended that the board’s policy went against Title IX, a civil rights law that prohibits sex-based discrimination.
His lawsuit became a federal test case when then-president Barack Obama scheduled it to be sent to the Supreme Court in 2017, but it went back to the lower courts once more the following year after the Trump administration scrapped an Obama-era policy that protected trans pupils.
A federal court eventually ruled that the school board’s ban was discriminatory in 2019 and this was affirmed by an appeals court in 2020.
Finally, on Thursday (26 August), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) announced today that the Gloucester County School Board had been ordered to pay more than $1.3 million in attorney’s fees and costs to Grimm, bringing his case to its resolution.
Gavin Grimm hopes bigots learn that ‘discrimination is an expensive losing battle’
Josh Block, senior staff attorney with the ACLU LGBTQ and HIV Project, said in a statement: “We are glad that this long litigation is finally over and that Gavin has been fully vindicated by the courts, but it should not have taken over six years of expensive litigation to get to this point.
“After a year in which state legislatures have introduced an unprecedented number of bills targeting trans youth, we hope that the fee award will give other school boards and lawmakers pause before they use discrimination to score political points.”
Gavin Grimm himself, now 22 years old, added: “Rather than allow a child equal access to a safe school environment, the Gloucester School Board decided to fight this child for five years in a costly legal battle that they lost.
“I hope that this outcome sends a strong message to other school systems, that discrimination is an expensive losing battle.”