Grimm v. Gloucester Cnty. Sch. Bd.

Decision Date22 May 2018
Docket NumberCivil No. 4:15cv54
Citation302 F.Supp.3d 730
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of Virginia
Parties Gavin GRIMM, Plaintiff, v. GLOUCESTER COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD, Defendant.

Claire Guthrie Gastanaga, Gail Marie Deady, American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, Richmond, VA, Joshua Abraham Block, Pro Hac Vice, Leslie Jill Cooper, Pro Hac Vice, New York Civil Liberties Union, New York, NY, for Plaintiff.

David P. Corrigan, Douglas Edward Pittman, Jeremy David Capps, Maurice Scott Fisher, Jr., Harman Claytor Corrigan & Wellman, Richmond, VA, for Defendant.

ORDER

Arenda L. Wright Allen, United States District Judge

Pending before the Court is an Amended Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) (ECF No. 135) filed by Defendant Gloucester County School Board ("Defendant" or "the Board"). For reasons set forth herein, the Motion is DENIED.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

When ruling on a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, courts accept a complaint's well-pled factual allegations as true, and draw any reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. See Wag More Dogs, LLC v. Cozart , 680 F.3d 359, 365 (4th Cir. 2012). Accordingly, the Court reviews the facts as alleged by Plaintiff Gavin Grimm ("Plaintiff" or "Mr. Grimm"). See Am. Compl., ECF No. 113.

Mr. Grimm is an eighteen-year-old man who attended Gloucester High School, a public school in Gloucester County, Virginia, from September 2013 through his graduation in June 2017. Id. ¶¶ 1, 79. When Mr. Grimm was born, hospital staff identified him as female. Id. ¶ 17. However, Mr. Grimm has known from a young age that he has a male gender identity—that is, he has a "deeply felt, inherent sense of being a boy, a man, or male," rather than a sense of being "a girl, a woman, or a female." Id. ¶ 18. Because his gender identity differs from the sex assigned to him at birth, he is transgender. Id. 17–19.

Like many of his transgender peers, after the onset of puberty, Mr. Grimm began suffering from "debilitating levels of distress" as the result of gender dysphoria, "a condition in which transgender individuals experience persistent and clinically significant distress caused by the incongruence between their gender identity and the sex assigned to them at birth." Id. ¶ 19. There is a medical and scientific consensus that treatment for gender dysphoria includes allowing transgender individuals to live in accordance with their gender identity, including "use of names and pronouns consistent with their identity, grooming and dressing in a manner typically associated with that gender, and using restrooms and other sex-separated facilities that match their gender identity."1 Id. ¶¶ 20–21. Furthermore, when medically appropriate, treatment also includes hormone therapy and surgery so that transgender individuals "may develop physical sex characteristics typical of their gender identity."2 Id. ¶¶ 20, 25. In addition, under widely accepted standards of care, "boys who are transgender may undergo medically necessary chest-reconstruction surgery after they turn [sixteen years old]." Id. ¶ 27.

In 2014, by the end of his freshman year of high school, Mr. Grimm experienced such distress from his untreated gender dysphoria that he was unable to attend class. Id. ¶ 36. At this time, he informed his parents of his male gender identity. Id. He began treatment with a psychologist experienced in counseling transgender youth and, as part of the medically-necessary treatment for his gender dysphoria, commenced the process of transitioning to live in accordance with his male identity. Id. ¶¶ 1, 36–37. By the time he began his sophomore year, Mr. Grimm had legally changed his first name to Gavin and had begun using male pronouns. He wore clothing and a hairstyle in a manner consistent with other males, and used men's restrooms in public venues without incident. Id. ¶¶ 2, 38. He also obtained a treatment documentation letter from his medical providers confirming that he was receiving treatment for gender dysphoria and was to be treated as a male in all respects—including restroom use. Id. ¶ 2.

In August 2014, prior to the beginning of his sophomore year, Mr. Grimm and his mother met with the Gloucester High School Principal and the Guidance Counselor, explaining that Mr. Grimm is a transgender boy and would be attending school as a boy. Mr. Grimm and his mother also provided the Principal and Counselor with the treatment documentation letter. Id. ¶ 39. At the time of the meeting, the Board lacked a policy addressing the restrooms that transgender students would use. Id. ¶ 41. Mr. Grimm initially requested the use of the restroom in the nurse's office. However, that restroom was located remotely, and using it left Mr. Grimm feeling stigmatized and isolated. That restroom was also far from many of his classrooms, causing Mr. Grimm to be late for class when he used it. After a few weeks, Mr. Grimm sought permission to use the boys' restrooms. With the Principal's support, he began using the boys' restrooms on October 20, 2014, and did so without incident for approximately seven weeks.3 Id. ¶¶ 42–47.

The Principal and Superintendent informed the Board that they had authorized Mr. Grimm to use the boys' restrooms, but otherwise kept the matter confidential. Id. ¶ 47. However, several adults in the community learned of a transgender student's use of the boys' restrooms. They contacted the Board, demanding that the transgender student be barred from the boys' restrooms. Id. The Board considered the matter in a private meeting and took no action for several weeks. However, one Board member proposed a policy regarding the use of restrooms by transgender students and submitted the policy for public debate at a Board meeting scheduled for November 11, 2014. In pertinent part, the policy proposed that "[i]t shall be the practice of the [Gloucester County Public Schools ("GCPS") ] to provide male and female restroom and locker room facilities in its schools, and the use of said facilities shall be limited to the corresponding biological genders, and students with gender identity issues shall be provided an alternative appropriate private facility."4 Id. ¶ 51.

At the meeting, Mr. Grimm decided to address the issue publicly, describing how he sought to use the restrooms "in peace" and had experienced "no problems from students" when using the boys' restrooms, "only from adults." Id. ¶ 55. The School Board deferred a vote on the proposed policy until its December 9, 2014 meeting. Id. ¶ 56. Before the next meeting, the Board announced plans to add or expand partitions between urinals in the male restrooms, add privacy strips to the doors of stalls in all restrooms, and to designate single-stall, unisex restrooms "to give all students the option for even greater privacy." Id. ¶ 57.

Despite the announced plans, speakers at the December 9, 2014 meeting continued to demand that Mr. Grimm be excluded from using the boys' restrooms immediately. Id. ¶ 59. The Board then passed the policy at the meeting by a six-to-one vote. The following day, Mr. Grimm was informed by the principal that he could no longer use the boys' restrooms. Id. ¶¶ 61–62. The Board then installed three single-user restrooms, none of which was located near Mr. Grimm's classes. Although any student was allowed to use them, no student besides Mr. Grimm did. Id. ¶¶ 65–66.

Because using the single-user restrooms underscored his exclusion and left him physically isolated, Mr. Grimm refrained from using any restroom at school. He developed a painful urinary tract infection and had difficulty concentrating in class because of his physical discomfort. Id. ¶¶ 67–70. When he attended school football games, no restroom was available for Mr. Grimm's use. As a result, Mr. Grimm was forced to have his mother pick him up from games early. Id. ¶ 71.

Throughout his sophomore, junior, and senior years of high school, Mr. Grimm continued the process of transitioning to live in accordance with his male identity. In December 2014, the middle of his sophomore year, he had begun hormone therapy, which altered his bone and muscle structure, deepened his voice, and caused him to grow facial hair. Id. ¶¶ 72–73. In June 2015, prior to the beginning of his junior year, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles issued Mr. Grimm a state identification card designating his gender as male. Id. ¶ 74. A year later, prior to the beginning of his senior year, Mr. Grimm underwent chest-reconstruction surgery, in accordance with the medical standards of care for treating gender dysphoria. Id. ¶ 75; see id. ¶ 27. Later that year, in September 2016, the Gloucester County Circuit Court issued an order changing his sex under Virginia state law and directing the Virginia Department of Health to issue Mr. Grimm a birth certificate listing his sex as male; this certificate was issued in October 2016. Id. ¶¶ 76–77. Throughout the process of these changes—up through Mr. Grimm's graduation in June 2017—the School Board maintained that Mr. Grimm's "biological gender" was female and prohibited administrators from permitting Mr. Grimm to use the boys' restrooms. Id. ¶¶ 78–79.

Mr. Grimm commenced this action against the Gloucester County School Board in July 2015, alleging that the Board's policy of assigning students to restrooms based on their biological sex violated Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. § 1681(a), as well as the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. In September 2015, another judge of this Court issued a Memorandum Opinion and Order (1) dismissing Mr. Grimm's claim under Title IX for failure to state a claim and (2) denying his Motion for a Preliminary Injunction based on the alleged Title IX and Equal Protection Clause violations. G.G. ex rel. Grimm v. Gloucester Cty. Sch. Bd. , 132 F.Supp.3d 736, 753 (E.D. Va. 2015), rev'd in part and vacated in part , 822...

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