Officials from a Virginia school district told the Supreme Court on Monday that a case about which bathroom should be used by a transgender student there could settle a nationwide controversy over the issue.
The Gloucester County School Board filed a petition urging the Supreme Court to hear its appeal. The school board wants the justices to undo a lower court injunction that requires the schools to allow a transgender boy identified as G.G. to use the boys’ restroom at his high school.
The Supreme Court, which is currently in the middle of its summer recess, already voted 5-3 on Aug. 3 to block the injunction by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit — but only until it decides whether to hear the school board’s case. The justices will make that decision at a later date.
The Gloucester County School Board bolsters its argument by citing the reaction to a guidance letter issued nationwide by the federal Education and Justice departments on transgender students’ use of bathrooms. The petition argues that the Virginia case could let the justices resolve “once and for all the current nationwide controversy generated by these directives.”
That Obama administration guidance raised concerns at school districts across the country, since it spells out how schools should handle transgender students, not only in regard to bathrooms, but also in locker rooms, athletics, same-sex classes, and housing and overnight accommodations.
The outcry sparked a lawsuit from Texas and a dozen other states and agencies represented by various state leaders, as well as school districts from Texas and Arizona. Last week, a federal district court judge issued an injunction blocking the administration’s transgender rule.
“Some regard transgender restroom access as one of the great civil rights issues of our time,” the Gloucester County School Board states in the petition. “But that makes it all the more important to insist that federal officials follow the procedures for lawmaking prescribed in the Constitution and the Administrative Procedure Act.”
The school board also argues that the 4th Circuit gave too much deference to an Education Department opinion letter written in 2015 about how that agency interprets the word “sex” in Title IX of a 1972 federal law. The law states that schools can have separate facilities and programs on the basis of sex for certain intimate settings — toilets, locker rooms and shower areas.