Today, a week after Transgender Law Center sent a demand letter on behalf of a transgender student who was suspended for using the bathroom matching his gender identity, Horry County Schools reversed course on school policies around bathroom use and agreed to adopt new policies to treat transgender students fairly.
“We are so grateful and excited about this outcome, and that my son might now be able to walk across the stage and graduate with his class,” said Lynne, the student’s mother. “While this doesn’t erase the harm done to my son, it means a lot to us that no other student in the district will have to go through what my son went through.”
The Superintendent stated that, should the student, R., return to school, “he, and all other transgender students, will be allowed to use facilities consistent with their gender identity.” The district also agreed to remove the suspension from R’s record, inform faculty and staff of their responsibility to use pronouns consistent with transgender students’ gender identities, and update classroom attendance rosters to reflect a student’s preferred name.
“I’m thrilled the district is changing its policy because for me this was always about all the younger transgender students who might not have the same support or ability to fight back like I did,” said R. “We’re in school to learn, and we should be able to use the bathroom when we need to without worrying about a teacher following us or policing which bathroom we use.”
This action makes Horry County Schools the first district to affirmatively change their policy following a precedent-setting Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals decision earlier this month. In that case, brought by the ACLU on behalf of Virginia student Gavin Grimm, the Court affirmed that transgender students have the right to use facilities that match their gender identity. The decision set a “binding precedent” for all states within the Fourth Circuit, which includes South Carolina.
“We thank Horry County Schools for finally turning around and doing the right thing by committing to treat transgender students fairly,” said Kris Hayashi, executive director of Transgender Law Center. “It is both illegal and wrong to ban transgender students from using the restroom matching the gender they live as every day. The law is clear, and we expect other districts to follow their lead and fall in line – or face the legal consequences.”
R. had been using the boys’ bathroom since middle school, but was suddenly told in his senior year of high school that he had to use the girls’ restroom or the nurse’s bathroom, which was out of the way from his classes. He was then “caught” using the boys’ bathroom by a teacher who followed him out of a pep rally, at which point 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.
Students facing harassment or discrimination can reach out to Transgender Law Center for support through the legal information helpline at 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 so that all people can live safely, authentically, and free from discrimination regardless of their gender identity or expression.