School Wants En Banc Review of Bathroom Case

     RICHMOND, Va. (CN) — Public school officials in Gloucester County, Virginia, have requested an en banc Fourth Circuit hearing in hopes of reversing new federal protections for transgender students.
     In a petition filed Wednesday, the Gloucester County School Board says permitting transgender students to use the restroom of their choice would be harmful to other students’ privacy interests.
     On April 19, 2016, the Fourth Circuit ruled that Gavin Grimm, a transgender boy at Gloucester High, can pursue civil rights claims against the board after it prevented him from using the boys bathroom at school.
     The board contends the decision, which adopted the interpretation of “sex” outlined in January 2015 letter from the state Department of Civil Rights, undermines Title IX, a federal law protecting girls and women from gender-based discrimination in public schools.
     “Far from merely interpreting a regulation, the OCR letter — a letter drafted to address this School Board’s restroom policy — improperly legislates through the pretense of interpreting an ‘ambiguous’ regulation that contains the same phrase as Title IX’s statutory language,” the board said.
     According to the law, federally-funded schools must provide separate restroom, locker room and housing facilities for females and males.
     Though the board claims that single occupancy restrooms on campus are sufficient to accommodate the needs of non-gender conforming individuals, Grimm says being forced to use the separate facilities only emphasizes his differences from other students to the detriment of his mental health and development.
     The Fourth Circuit’s decision that transgender students must also be afforded the same consideration as other students leaves too many questions unanswered with respect to policymaking decisions, the board claims.
     “Are schools required to allow transgender students to use the showers and locker room facilities that correlate to their gender identity, not their anatomical sex?” The board asked in its petition.
     “Can schools consider the biological sex of employees who are to be hired in these sex-segregated facilities? Must educational institutions permit biologically male students who identify as female to participate in competitive female sports and vice versa?”
     “These are all questions of exceptional importance that justify en banc review,” said the board.
     Attorneys for the school board declined to comment on the district’s filing.

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