A study by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law in 2017 found that West Virginia (WV) has the highest percentage of teens ages 13 to 17 who identify as transgender in the United States. These students are entitled to the same rights, civil liberties, and protections as all other Americans, but there are people across the country who are fighting to prevent that. This blog provides an overview of current cases related to transgender rights in WV schools that families should be watching.
The Importance of Transgender Rights in WV Schools
Why are transgender rights in WV schools important? In addition to the basic value of equality and the protections granted to all Americans under federal laws and the Constitution, the support and acceptance of teachers and school administrators can be critical to the well-being of transgender students and can also influence a student’s level of engagement in school activities, according to a study cited by Education Week.
Unfortunately, it seems that this support from adults in school settings is being worn down by the barrage of legislation in recent years related to the rights of transgender students and the emotionally charged debates and discourse on these topics.
Transgender issues in schools—including bathroom policies for transgender students and transgender sports and extracurricular participation—are at the forefront of the public’s attention, and ensuring transgender equality in West Virginia schools should be a top priority.
Bathroom Policies for Transgender Students in WV
In 2021, the Supreme Court of the United States declined to hear an appeal in the case of Grimm v. Gloucester County School Board. Gavin Grimm, a transgender student in Virginia at the time, filed a lawsuit against his local school board after he was denied access to the boys’ restroom and instructed to use an alternate facility. Grimm was also refused a transcript identifying him as male after he graduated, even though he had taken all of the steps necessary to change his name and gender in the state of Virginia under the law.
His attorneys argued—and the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit eventually ruled—that the school’s actions constituted discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation. This kind of discrimination is prohibited by both the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution and by Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals found that Grimm (and by precedent other transgender students) should be allowed to use the bathroom facilities that match their gender identification and be granted changes related to gender identity on school records. Students should also be allowed to dress according to their gender identity and may form Gay-Straight Alliances and other similar groups.
West Virginia falls under the jurisdiction of the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which, along with the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear an appeal of the case, means that the ruling applies to schools across the state here as well as in Virginia.
Transgender Sports Participation in West Virginia
The issue of transgender sports participation in West Virginia has also been legislated and litigated in recent years. House Bill 3293 passed and was set to go into effect in July of 2021. The law would have prevented transgender girls from participating in girls’ team sports in West Virginia schools.
A federal lawsuit was filed on behalf of a transgender 11-year-old in Harrison County who wanted to run track on the girls’ middle school track team. In BPJ v. WV BOE, Jackson alleges that the law passed by the WV Legislature violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and Title IX law. This case is still pending before the US District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia as of this writing. Pending resolution of this case, that court has blocked the law, enjoining schools from enforcing it.
Transgender Rights in WV Schools: Contact a WV Transgender Rights Attorney
Transgender rights in WV schools and beyond will undoubtedly continue to be a hot-button issue with ongoing litigation and struggles. If you are facing an issue related to transgender equality in West Virginia schools or another civil rights matter, WV transgender rights attorney M. Andrew Brison of The Law Office of M. Andrew Brison, PLLC can meet with you to discuss your legal matter and how he can help. Reach out to schedule a consultation by calling 304-397-8225 or completing the firm’s online contact form.