School Districts Take Note: 7th Circuit Court Affirms Federal Non-Discrimination Protections for Transgender Students May 31, 2017

In a groundbreaking decision out of Wisconsin, a 3-judge panel of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled unanimously that transgender students are protected from discrimination under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

This is a historic step forward for transgender Americans. It’s the first time ever that a federal appellate court has applied these particular federal non-discrimination protections to transgender students, setting groundbreaking legal precedent in favor of fair and equal treatment for transgender youth at school.

The 7th Circuit case exemplifies some of the worst kinds of discrimination that transgender students can face on a daily basis. Seventeen-year-old Wisconsin student Ash Whitaker brought the case, Whitaker v. Kenosha, after his school denied him access to the boys’ restroom and subjected him to other forms of discrimination, like isolating him from his peers and refusing to use his proper name and pronouns. At one point, the school even considered requiring all transgender students to wear green armbands in order to closely monitor their bathroom usage.

The court’s ruling on the side of Whitaker guarantees his right to use the boy’s restroom. It also  bolsters the case for schools to enact district-wide policies that ensure transgender students can participate fully, in compliance with Title IX guidelines.

Right now, in New Hampshire, there are 17 school districts in the state that explicitly protect protect them from discrimination as a matter of district policy. And because the 7th Circuit’s decision this week only applies in practice to its three-state jurisdiction area—Wisconsin, Indiana and Illinois—New Hampshire students will rely on district policy to protect them until and if a similar case applies these protections to the Granite State.

This patchwork of protections leaves students outside of these 17 districts in a precarious situation regarding their ability to feel safe at school.

Meanwhile, one of the 17 school districts—Candia—is, at this very moment, considering a repeal of their transgender non-discrimination policies. This isn’t just a shameful denial of the dignity and humanity of transgender students, it is in direct conflict with the 7th Circuit’s interpretation of Title IX, which makes anti-transgender discrimination illegal.

Tomorrow, on June 1st at 6PM, the Candia School Board will hold a public hearing to debate the proposed repeal—and to hear from the public about why these types of non-discrimination protections are so vital to the success and freedom of transgender students.

Of the five-member board, three are pushing to repeal the district’s non-discrimination policy—but the community is fighting back. Tomorrow’s meeting is open to any and everyone who wants to voice their opinion about the importance of ensuring transgender students have a fair shot at success.

Our grassroots movement is mobilizing to get supporters of transgender non-discrimination out to the meeting—click here to let us know you’ll be there.

And no matter if you can join us there or not, take a couple minutes to email the Candia School Board to let them know you are against repealing non-discrimination protections for transgender students.