Wisconsin school district settles transgender student's suit

Ash Whitaker and mom Melissa

Ash Whitaker and mom Melissa

"This settlement sends the clear message to all school districts that discriminating against transgender students is against the law and harms students who simply want to go to school", Whitaker's lawyer Joseph Wardenski told the Kenosha News. Grimm's case was supposed to go to the Supreme Court, but it is now being reconsidered by the appeals court in light of the withdrawal of the guidelines. The school board voted Tuesday night, January 9 to settle with Ash Whitaker for $800,000; it's an outcome some say will make waves nationwide.

Whitaker, who graduated from high school in June 2017 shortly after the Seventh Circuit issued its ruling, said in a statement he's "deeply relieved" by the settlement.

"Winning this case was so empowering and made me feel like I can actually do something to help other trans youth live authentically", he told the Transgender Law Center.

Court documents show that Whitaker, 18, who graduated past year and is now a freshman at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, began to openly identify as a boy when he was a freshman at the high school. "If someone's telling you that you don't deserve that, prove them wrong".

"The precedent in the Seventh Circuit is definitive", Hayashi said.

The Seventh Circuit's unanimous decision, which took place in May, held that "a$3 policy that requires an individual to use a bathroom that does not conform with his or her gender identity. violates Title IX" and that subjecting transgender students "to different rules, sanctions and treatment than non-transgender students" also violates federal law.

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Now, KUSD will pay $800,000 "for the harm Ash experienced as a student and his reasonable attorneys' fees and costs", the Transgender Law Center said.

Other legal groups representing Whitaker were Relman, Dane & Colfax PLLC, a D.C. -based civil rights law firm and Robert Theine Pledl of McNally Peterson, S.C., based in Milwaukee, Wis. 'We are pleased that KUSD decided not to endlessly drag this case through the courts any further, to compensate Ash for the concrete and avoidable harms he suffered and to finally allow Ash to move on from this painful chapter of his life'.

Whitaker alleged that his former high school discriminated against him by proposing that all trans students should wear bright green labels to monitor their restroom use. "The district strongly denied such allegations and at no point in the litigation did Whitaker submit evidence to substantiate those disputed claims". By dropping the appeal, the school district allows the 7th Circuit's decision to stand - establishing both a federal precedent and potentially setting up a situation where, if another federal circuit rules against a transgender student, there will be a split in the circuits that will eventually have to be resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court. Justices could have rendered a national clarification - either for or against transgender students - if they had made a decision to take up the school district's petition.

Gregory said policies that keep students from using restrooms corresponding with their gender identity harm the transgender student. The Education Department subsequently issued a memo saying discrimination and harassment of transgender kids could amount to sex discrimination, but federal law doesn't necessarily apply to bathroom use.

The agreement does not apply to other transgender students beyond Whitaker, according to Kenosha News.

On Tuesday, more than a year after the suit was filed, the school board settled and Whitaker was awarded $800,000.

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