School has one week to comply with Title IX

Yesterday, Transgender Law Center sent a letter to Horry County Schools warning that the district would face legal action unless they act immediately to ensure transgender students are able to use the restroom that matches the gender they live as every day. Transgender Law Center is representing a high school senior and transgender boy, R., who had been using the boys’ bathroom without incident until Socastee High School suddenly banned him from the boys’ bathroom in his senior year.

“All of the kids at that school knew and accepted my son for the boy he is, and for the school to suddenly single him out from the other boys and force him to use the girls’ bathroom was devastating,” said Lynne, R.’s mother. “He was harassed and discriminated against by the very people responsible for his education, and as a result they put his health at risk and took away his opportunity to finish senior year at school with his friends.”

R. first began using the boys’ bathroom in middle school at the request of administrators, and continued using it for his first three years at Socastee High School. There was no problem until, following a teacher complaint, the school suddenly told him he could only use the girls’ bathroom or the nurse’s restroom. To avoid the stigma of being singled out in that way, he stopped using the bathroom almost entirely during the school day, which was dangerous for his health. He also began having panic attacks at school, including one during the first meeting when administrators told him he could no longer use the boys’ bathroom. At that meeting, an administrator told him that his panic attack was “inappropriate.”

R. avoided further incident until a teacher followed him when he left a pep rally. When she “caught” him using the boys’ bathroom, he was suspended. Unable to tolerate any more of the administration’s harassment, R. soon afterwards transferred to an online school to complete his senior year.

A precedent-setting Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals decision earlier this week, in a similar case brought by the ACLU on behalf of Virginia student Gavin Grimm, affirmed that transgender students have the right to use facilities that match their gender identity. The decision sets a “binding precedent” for all states within the Fourth Circuit, which includes South Carolina.

“From the White House to the courts, federal authorities have made it crystal clear that schools cannot ban transgender students from using the bathroom that matches their gender identity. It’s time for schools – and states – to get in line or face the legal consequences,” said Kris Hayashi, executive director of Transgender Law Center.

South Carolina is currently considering legislation, similar to North Carolina’s HB2, which would enshrine Socastee High School’s discriminatory policy into state law – in direct violation of the Fourth Circuit ruling. The U.S. Department of Education, 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.

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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.