(Kenosha, WI) – A federal court today ruled that a Wisconsin school must immediately halt its discriminatory policy of singling out a transgender boy, Ashton Whitaker, and forcing him to use a restroom separate from all other students. Whitaker, represented by Transgender Law Center and Relman, Dane & Colfax PLLC, asked for the preliminary injunction so that he could use the restroom during his senior year of high school as the court heard arguments in his case challenging KUSD’s discriminatory treatment of him.
“For the first time this year, I feel like I can actually make it through my senior year of high school just like any other boy in my class,” said 17-year-old Ash Whitaker. “It’s awful going to school every day with the constant stress and stigma from being segregated from my peers and from administrators watching my every move just because of who I am. I’m so relieved I’ll be able to just go to class, apply to college, and graduate without worrying if I’ll get in trouble for using the restroom.”
U.S. District Judge Pamela Pepper read her decision aloud from the bench, holding that Ash would continue to suffer irreparable harm if KUSD continued to deny him access to the boys’ restroom during his senior year. In her decision, Judge Pepper explicitly recognized the emotional, psychological and physical harm Ash has endured under KUSD’s discriminatory policy and the importance to transgender people of being treated in accordance with their gender identity.
“We are thrilled for Ash, and grateful that the court recognized the urgent need to address the harm the school’s policy has caused him,” said Transgender Law Center Executive Director Kris Hayashi. “Transgender students, like all students, should have the opportunity to go to school and get an education without being singled out for harassment and discrimination by school administrators.”
The complaint in Whitaker v. Kenosha Unified School District No. 1 Board of Education alleges that KUSD’s policy of denying Ash access to the boys’ restrooms and other discriminatory actions—including school administrators’ insistence on using Ash’s birth name and female pronouns, the school’s repeated isolation of Ash from his peers on overnight school trips, and a proposed policy to require transgender students to wear green wristbands or stickers—violate Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
Today’s ruling follows a ruling yesterday denying the school district’s motion to dismiss the case. KUSD has indicated that the district plans to appeal today’s decision granting the preliminary injunction and to appeal yesterday’s decision denying the district’s motion to dismiss the case.
“We expect that the Seventh Circuit will affirm the lower court’s decision and follow the lead of the majority of courts that have made clear that Title IX and the Constitution protect transgender students from being segregated from and treated differently than their peers,” stated Joseph Wardenski, an attorney at Relman, Dane & Colfax.
Pledl & Cohn, S.C., based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is assisting Transgender Law Center and Relman, Dane & Colfax as local counsel in this case.
Students facing harassment or discrimination can reach out to Transgender Law Center for support through the legal information helpline at www.transgenderlawcenter.org/help.
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. Transgender Law Center envisions a future in which all people can live safely, authentically, and free from discrimination regardless of their gender identity or expression. www.transgenderlawcenter.org
Relman, Dane & Colfax PLLC is a national civil rights law firm based in Washington, DC. The firm litigates civil rights cases in the areas of housing, lending, employment, public accommodations, education, and police accountability. Our national practice includes individual and class action lawsuits on behalf of plaintiffs who have suffered discrimination and harassment on the basis of race, national origin, color, religion, sex (including gender identity), disability, age, familial status, source of income, and sexual orientation. www.relmanlaw.com