A Federal Court Could Ditch Gavin Grimm's Lawsuit Because He Graduated High School

by Chris Tognotti
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There's a pretty good chance you've heard the name Gavin Grimm. Now an 18-year-old, Grimm has been pursuing a lawsuit against his school board for more than a year, suing for the use of the appropriate bathroom for his gender identity. Now, months after the Supreme Court declined to hear the case, and days after the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals kicked it to a lower court, it may be in peril ― Grimm's lawsuit could be dismissed, because he's not a high school student anymore.

Grimm reportedly graduated from Gloucester High School in Virginia in June 2017. Thus, the court considering his case could decide to throw his lawsuit out on the grounds that he lacks enough of an existing affiliation with the school for him to have standing to challenge its existing bathroom policy.

As Imani Gandy expertly detailed for Rewire, Grimm's argument to keep the suit alive hinges on his plans to visit the high school in the future, no longer as a student, but as a guest at reunions and other community events. The fact that the same awkward and cruel dilemma he faced as a student might still face him when he returns, so the argument goes, would mean he still has a legitimate interest in the school's policy, and could continue to mount his legal challenge.

Whether that argument will sway the lower court, however, remains to be seen. As Ann Marimow of The Washington Post detailed on Wednesday, the Fourth Circuit Court specifically sent the case back down to address the question of Grimm's ties to his former high school, with an order from a three-judge panel saying they'd only seen "unsupported assertions" of such an affiliation:

Because all of the prior litigation was conducted while Grimm was a student, the parties have presented us with nothing more than unsupported assertions regarding Grimm’s continued connection to his high school and the applicability of the school board’s policy.
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It's unclear how long it'll take for the lower court to render a decision on Grimm's case. As Reuters noted, had the Supreme Court taken the case, it would've set the stage for a landmark ruling on transgender rights, assessing whether transgender Americans are entitled to equal treatment under the law, and specifically whether they're protected under Title XI, the 1972 law that prohibits sex-based discrimination by educational institutions that receive federal funding.

The Supreme Court had, in fact, been planning to hear the case as recently as early March. But, after the Trump administration reversed the Obama administration's guidelines and protections for transgender students ― guidelines which formed the basis of the lower court's rulings on Grimm's case ― it changed course, declining to hear the suit.