Transgender student Ash Whitaker won initial battle with school over prom king run, but still barred from using restrooms matching his gender identity

Ash Whitaker

Ash and his mom Melissa

April 20, 2016 — Transgender Law Center sent a letter to the Kenosha Unified School District yesterday demanding that transgender students be allowed to use facilities that match their gender identity or face legal consequences for violating federal law. Ashton Whitaker, a 16-year-old transgender boy and a student at Tremper High School, had been using the boys’ restrooms without incident since the beginning of the school year, until school administrators intervened and threatened him with disciplinary action if he continued to use the boys’ restroom.

“School is no longer the safe and welcoming place that it used to be. Being banned from the boys’ bathroom is a daily reminder that school administrators see me as someone who is so different from the other students that I’m not even allowed to share a bathroom with them,” said Ash.  “I’ve basically stopped using the bathroom at school altogether, which makes it painful and difficult to get through the school day.”

Students at Tremper High School have rallied in support of Ashton and are urging the school district to adopt a policy allowing transgender students to use restrooms consistent with their gender identity.  An online petition has generated thousands of signatures in support of Ashton’s right to be treated as a boy in all aspects of his life at school.

“Transgender students, like all students, should be able to participate fully in school life and access the same facilities as their peers without fear of being singled out and harassed. It’s not only right – it’s the law,” said Kris Hayashi, executive director of Transgender Law Center.

Federal nondiscrimination laws make it clear that transgender students have the right to use facilities consistent with their gender identity, as affirmed just yesterday in a precedent-setting Fourth Circuit of Appeals ruling in a similar case brought by the ACLU on behalf of Virginia student Gavin Grimm. The Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, the federal agency tasked with enforcing Title IX, has long interpreted Title IX to require schools to allow transgender students to use facilities consistent with their gender identity. School districts that do not comply with Title IX’s requirements risk losing their federal funding.

Students facing harassment or discrimination can reach out to Transgender Law Center for support through the legal information helpline at transgenderlawcenter.org/help.

Read the demand letter below.

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Transgender Law Center is the largest national organization dedicated to advancing justice for transgender and gender nonconforming people through litigation, policy advocacy, and public education so that all people can live safely, authentically, and free from discrimination regardless of their gender identity or expression. 

Download (PDF, 213KB)

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Transgender Law Center (TLC) is the largest national trans-led organization advocating self-determination for all people. Grounded in legal expertise and committed to racial justice, TLC employs a variety of community-driven strategies to keep transgender and gender nonconforming people alive, thriving, and fighting for liberation.

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