The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed Friday to decide if transgender students should be allowed to use bathrooms based on their gender identity according to a directive issued by the Obama administration earlier this year.
The case will be heard starting in January 2017.
At the center of what is considered to be the most high-profile case for the high court since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia is a 17-year-old senior transgender student from Virginia.
Gavin Grimm, a biological female who identifies as a boy, sued Gloucester County school board last year with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union after Gloucester High School refused to let her use the boys’ restroom.
It all began in 2014 when Grimm informed school authorities about the gender identity she has embraced. Although the school was supportive of the decision, Grimm wasn’t sure how the other students would react, so she did not use the boys’ bathroom but used the one in the nurse’s office instead.
However, doing so entailed “long trips back and forth,” which Grimm claimed was “stigmatizing and unnecessary.”
“I was using men’s restrooms in restaurants and shopping malls, so I told the principal I would like to use the boys’ restrooms at school, too,” Grimm wrote in an op-ed for The Washington Post.
While the school principal supported Grimm’s decision, some of the students’ parents raised a complaint about a female student using the boys’ restroom. The school board held two public meetings to discuss the issue. Afterward, they imposed a new policy restricting transgender students from using bathrooms according to the gender they identify with.
In the lawsuit against the Gloucester County school board, Grimm argued that the policy violated Title IX, which prohibits schools from discriminating based on sexual orientation. A U.S. district judge struck down his argument, but Grimm appealed the case, which was restored through the Court of Appeals and sent back to the judge for reconsideration.
The district judge, saying he was bound by the Court of Appeals’ decision, ordered the school to allow Grimm to use the boys’ restroom. The school board persisted on its stand and brought the transgender bathroom issue to the Supreme Court.
Grimm’s attorney, Joshua Block, explained Grimm is “is not trying to dismantle sex-segregated restrooms. He’s just trying to use them.”
“We’re prepared to make our case to the court and to make sure the Supreme Court and people in general see Gavin as who he is and see trans kids across the country for who they are,” Block said, according to another report by The Washington Post.
The case is now being closely monitored by school authorities, LGBT rights groups and others because the Supreme Court’s decision will affect public schools all over the country.
Gloucester County school board chairman Troy Andersen said the board is “grateful that the Supreme Court has granted the School Board’s petition in this difficult case.”