Expecting a new round of protests from parents and students when school opens in September, a Virginia school board plans to ask the Supreme Court shortly to allow it to enforce its existing policy on access to bathrooms at its high school in the midst of a transgender rights controversy.
The plea, promised within the next ten days, will go initially to Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., who has the authority to act on preliminary matters from the Fourth U.S. Circuit, which includes Virginia. Roberts can act on his own, or share the issue with his colleagues.
This appears likely to be the first case to reach the Court on the newly developing controversy over transgender rights — the latest civil rights movement. The case of G.G. v. Gloucester County School Board involves a high school junior who was assigned the gender of a girl at birth but now identifies as a boy.
The case has been moving back and forth between a federal trial court in Newport News and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. A new appeal to the Fourth Circuit Court is imminent, after the trial judge on June 23 ordered the school board to allow G.G. to use the boys’ bathroom at his school in the Virginia town of Gloucester Courthouse.
The school board’s lawyers on Tuesday asked the trial judge, District Judge Robert G. Doumar, to put that order on hold, for one of two alternative reasons. It should be delayed to allow the board to pursue its new appeal to the Fourth Circuit Court, or, alternatively, to give the Supreme Court time to act on a new plea the board will be filing within ten days.
That request to Chief Justice Roberts will seek to postpone a two-to-one decision by the Fourth Circuit Court on April 19, finding that the school board has a legal duty to follow the guidance of federal education officials that the youth, G.G., has a right under federal sex discrimination law to use the boys’ bathroom at school.
The case has grown a bit complex in recent days, but the school board’s ultimate legal objective is to get its case before the Supreme Court. In the meantime, it wants to enforce a policy — adopted after the controversy over G.G. developed, stirring protests by parents and students — that would require students to use the school bathrooms that apply to their birth gender, but would allow a student the alternative of using a single-stall, unisex bathroom.
G.G. and his mother, Deirdre Grimm, have been arguing that G.G. should not be ostracized by requiring him to use a bathroom other than the one that conforms to his gender identity as a boy.
In asking Judge Doumar to put the case on hold while the school board pursues its appeal options, the board argued that it is ultimately likely to win, because the transgender policy that federal officials have adopted recently directly contradicts the limits of Title IX, which bans sex discrimination in federally funded education.
Federal regulations issued in 1980 under Title IX, the school board argues, specify that school authorities are free to devise their own policies on the uses of girls’ and boys’ bathroom facilities at school. That is exactly what it has done, the Gloucester board contends.
That will be the same reasoning it will use when it asks the Chief Justice to put the Fourth Circuit decision on hold while the board challenges it on appeal to the Justices.
The Court is in recess for the summer, but preliminary matters like the delay request by the Gloucester board can be handled in the usual way.