A transgender student has filed a lawsuit alleging a Wisconsin school district won’t let him use the boys’ restrooms and repeatedly uses his female birth name, violating federal anti-discrimination laws and the U.S. Constitution.
The Transgender Law Center and the civil rights law firm Relman, Dane and Colfax PLLC filed the federal lawsuit Tuesday in Milwaukee against the Kenosha school district. The filing states Ashton Whitaker, a 16-year-old student at Tremper High School, was designated a girl on his birth certificate but began identifying as a boy in middle school.
The lawsuit alleges the district has denied him access to boys’ restrooms and directed staff to monitor his restroom usage, forcing him and other transgender students to wear green wristbands to help staff recognize them. As a result, Whitaker drastically reduced his liquid intake, aggravating a medical condition that causes him to faint, and suffered stress migraines.
Teachers also continue to call him by his female birth name, he had to room with girls on an orchestra trip to Europe and the principal initially denied him the ability to run for junior prom king, telling him he could run only for prom queen, according to the lawsuit. School administrators relented only after his classmates protested, the lawsuit noted.
The district’s actions violate Title IX, a federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, as well as the Constitution’s equal protection guarantees, the lawsuit argues.
Whitaker said in a statement that the district’s actions have made his life miserable and he’s worried about how he’ll navigate his upcoming senior year.
An attorney for the Kenosha district said Wednesday he is certain the district will win the lawsuit.
“The district is confident that when the litigation process establishes accurate facts and applies them to the proper legal standards, its policies and practices will be found to be in total compliance with all laws,” Ron Stadler said in an email sent by the district’s communication director to Kenosha News.
Wisconsin is one of several conservative-led states suing President Barack Obama’s administration over its directive to public schools to let transgender students use bathrooms that match their gender identity. The suit asks the federal court to declare the guidance unlawful, block enforcement of the law and prevent the administration from issuing new guidance.
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The guidance from the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education reiterates 2014 guidance released by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights that said the federal anti-discrimination law known as Title IX covers discrimination on the basis of gender identity. The recent guidance threatens to withhold federal funding if school districts do not comply.
Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin also tried to pass a bill during the 2015-16 legislative session that would have made it the first state to force public school students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond to their birth gender. The measure died.
At least 13 states and the District of Columbia prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity in schools. Hundreds of districts, from Anchorage, Alaska, and Tucson, Arizona, to Fairfax County, Virginia and Chicago, have adopted similar protections.
At least two other transgender students have filed similar lawsuits seeking the right to use boys’ bathrooms and locker rooms.
Gavin Grimm filed a lawsuit in Virginia seeking to use boys’ bathroom at his high school. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Grimm in April. The school board has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take the case.
A 14-year-old Maryland middle school student filed a federal lawsuit on Tuesday alleging school officials have barred him from using the boys’ restrooms and locker rooms.
On the other side of the issue, dozens of families sued in May seeking to stop Township High School District 211 in suburban Chicago from allowing a transgender girl from using the girls’ locker room.
State Journal staff contributed to this report