(Chicago, March 29, 2017) Today the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in the case Whitaker v. Kenosha Unified School District, involving a transgender Wisconsin student whose school had denied him access to the boy’s room. The school district is appealing a preliminary injunction from a lower court granting the student the right to use the boy’s room.
“Although the last couple of years have been hard for me and for my mom, I am happy that today my story was heard,” said Ashton (Ash) Whitaker after the hearing. “I’m grateful for all the support I’ve received from my friends, family, my lawyers, and especially my mom. If there’s one thing I want other transgender students to know, it’s that you’re not alone, and there is help and support for you. I’m optimistic about my case, and hope it helps others as well as me.”
Ash is a senior at Tremper High School in Kenosha. He had been using the boys’ restrooms without incident until school administrators intervened and threatened him with disciplinary action if he continued to use the boys’ restroom. To avoid being punished, Ash stopped using the bathroom at school. He has also suffered depression and extreme anxiety as a result of being singled out and treated differently from other boys.
Ash is represented by Transgender Law Center (TLC), the largest national transgender advocacy organization, and Relman, Dane & Colfax PLLC, a Washington, D.C.-based civil rights law firm.
Today’s argument rested on the accepted interpretation that Title IX’s gender-based protection apply to transgender students, as well as on the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
“We’re confident that the Seventh Circuit will affirm the preliminary injunction, which has allowed Ash to enjoy his senior year without the constant fear of being treated differently from other boys by his school,” said attorney Joseph Wardenski of Relman, Dane & Colfax, who argued Ash’s case in court today. “We believe that the court will recognize the serious and lasting harm that this kind of discrimination causes transgender students like Ash.”
“Students like Ash just want to go to school and get an education like everybody else, free of harassment and discrimination,” said Kris Hayashi, TLC’s executive director. “Ash has been incredibly courageous, and I hope his persistence is rewarded.”
Students facing harassment or discrimination can reach out to Transgender Law Center for support through the legal information helpline at transgenderlawcenter.org/help.
More information on the case and its history, as well as legal documents, are available here.