Federal court gives trans Hoosier students bathroom access

The ruling means two school districts must allow transgender students to use the restrooms for their gender.

INDIANAPOLIS – The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that schools must allow transgender students to use the bathrooms of their gender identity.

The Associated Press reported that the ruling upheld a preliminary injunction from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana last year ordering the Metropolitan School District of Martinsville and the Vigo County Schools to give the transgender students such access.

The MSD of Martinsville is about 30 miles southwest of Indianapolis. Vigo County Schools is based in Terre Haute, 75 miles west of Indianapolis on the Illinois-Indiana border.

Martinsville Superintendent Eric Bowlen told the AP in an email “we are reviewing the decision and evaluating available options.”

The Vigo County School Corp. said in a statement sent to the news service that it was reviewing the decision with legal counsel.

According to the AP, the opinion also said it was likely that the U.S. Supreme Court would hear the case or ones similar to it. While Indiana doesn’t have a law about bathroom access, bills that would impose one have been introduced. Other states such as Arkansas have passed laws that block trans students from using the correct restroom.

The groups suing the school districts welcomed the ruling.

“Students who are denied access to the appropriate facilities are caused both serious emotional and physical harm as they are denied recognition of who they are. They will often avoid using the restroom altogether while in school,” said Kenneth Falk, ACLU of Indiana attorney. “Schools should be a safe place for kids and the refusal to allow a student to use the correct facilities can be extremely damaging.”

“Along with the ACLU, we celebrate the Court of Appeals’ decision that affirms that school officials must treat these students as the boys they are,” said Megan Stuart, director of advocacy and director of the LGBT Project. “Indiana Legal Services is proud of our work helping LGBTQ+ Hoosiers whose rights have been violated and in expanding the law to ensure LGBTQ+ people can live safe, long lives.” 

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