Whitaker v. Kenosha Unified School District
TLC Case | Issue area: Youth, Public Accommodations
On July 19, 2016, Transgender Law Center and co-counsel Relman, Dane & Colfax PLLC filed suit against the Kenosha Unified School District in Wisconsin on behalf of Ash Whitaker, a transgender boy. Ash has been denied access to male-designated restrooms at his high school, subjected to daily surveillance and threatened with disciplinary action if he continued using the boys’ restrooms. The complaint alleges that these and other discriminatory actions—including a proposal that all transgender students be made to wear bright green wristbands in order to monitor their restroom use, school administrators’ insistence on using Ash’s birth name and female pronouns, and the school’s repeated isolation of Ash from his peers on overnight school trips—violates Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
In September 2016, a federal court ruled that the school must immediately halt its discriminatory policy of singling Ash out because he is transgender and allow him to use the boys’ restroom. The school district appealed this ruling, and the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments in the case in March 2017.
In May 2017, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously in Ash’s favor, in a landmark decision holding that transgender students are protected from discrimination under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX) and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The school initially appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, but ultimately withdrew their appeal and settled, leaving the Seventh Circuit precedent intact.