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Whitaker v. Kenosha Unified School District No. 1. Board of Education

United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
858 F.3d 1034 (7th Cir. 2017)


Facts

Ashton Whitaker (Ash) identifies as a transgender boy. He was diagnosed with Gender Dysphoria, recognized by the American Psychiatric Association as experiencing a gender opposite from that assigned. His high school said he could use only the girls’ or a gender-neutral office bathroom. Ash worried that would undermine his transition and stigmatize him. He developed stress-related migraines, depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation. In his junior year, he used the boys’ bathroom for nearly six months without incident until a teacher reported him. The administration told Ash that changing his school records to identify him as male would require proof of a surgical transition—prohibited for anyone under age 18. The school had security guards monitor Ash and he had meetings with school officials for using the boys’ room. The school gave him the key to two additional gender-neutral bathrooms far from the classrooms, but other students questioned him about it. Ash’s mother (plaintiff) sued the school board and its superintendent (defendants) on his behalf, claiming that the school’s unwritten policy violated Title IX and equal protection. Experts testified that using the boys’ bathroom was integral to Ash’s transition and emotional health. His doctor reported that his suicidal ideation worsened each time he met with school officials and that it caused psychological distress that could permanently injure his well-being. The district court granted preliminary injunction, and the school board appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Williams, J.)

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