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Case Name W. v. Kenosha Unified School District No 1 Board of Education ED-WI-0002
Docket / Court 2:16-cv-00943 ( E.D. Wis. )
State/Territory Wisconsin
Case Type(s) Education
Special Collection Transgender Bathroom Access Cases
Attorney Organization Relman, Dane & Colfax
Case Summary
The plaintiff in this case was a 16-year-old rising senior at the George Nelson Temper High School (Temper), which is part of the Kenosha Unified School District No. 1 (KUSD), in Wisconsin. Plaintiff, who was labeled female on his birth certificate but whose gender identity is male, suffers from ... read more >
The plaintiff in this case was a 16-year-old rising senior at the George Nelson Temper High School (Temper), which is part of the Kenosha Unified School District No. 1 (KUSD), in Wisconsin. Plaintiff, who was labeled female on his birth certificate but whose gender identity is male, suffers from gender dysphoria, a condition recognized by the American Psychiatric Association. Over the course of several years, despite explanations from plaintiff and despite receiving several signed letters from plaintiff’s pediatrician explaining plaintiff’s condition, KUSD officials repeatedly denied plaintiff access to facilities matching his gender identify. KUSD further subjected plaintiff to various other forms of discriminatory and humiliating treatment, singling out plaintiff for his transgender status and otherwise refusing to accept plaintiff’s male gender identity. When asked, KUSD officials repeatedly refused to say if their discriminatory actions were taken pursuant to formal KUSD policy.

Even after hearing from plaintiff and plaintiff’s pediatrician that plaintiff’s gender identity was male, KUSD told plaintiff to use either the women’s restroom, or a gender-neutral, single-occupancy bathroom in the school’s office. However, the plaintiff alleged, using the women’s’ restroom despite plaintiff’s male gender identity would have caused him severe emotional discomfort, while the single-occupancy bathroom would have singled plaintiff out from his peers and made it difficult for plaintiff to get to his classes on time (the bathroom is not accessible to any other students and is inconveniently located). Consequently, plaintiff tried to avoid using the restrooms at all while at school, drinking less fluids to avoid the urge to use the restrooms at school despite having medical a condition that requires drinking large amounts of fluids to avoiding fainting and migraines. Eventually, after repeated complaints from plaintiff and plaintiff’s mother, KUSD offered to make “further accommodations” to plaintiff by designated single-occupancy restrooms located on opposite sides of the Temper campus for plaintiff’s use. However this did not resolve plaintiff’s underlying concerns, because plaintiff remained singled out in relation to his fellow students (the single-occupancy bathrooms, which were previously available to all students, were now available only to plaintiff), and because the single-occupancy bathrooms were also inconveniently located.

In addition to restricting plaintiff’s access to the men’s restroom, KUSD took a number of other actions that plaintiff alleged discriminated against him. On a school-sponsored trips with the School’s orchestra program, plaintiff was required to either stay in a room with females, or stay alone in a suite. At Temper, KUSD refused to change plaintiff’s name or gender in school records and attendance lists, putting plaintiff in the embarrassing situation of explaining his situation to substitute teachers and other employees unaware of his situation. The school also initially refused to allow plaintiff to be nominated as prom king, relenting only after petition and other protests by plaintiff’s fellow students. Additionally, during meetings with plaintiff, KUSD officials repeatedly referred to plaintiff using female pronouns and by the female name on his birth certificate, despite plaintiff’s request that they use male pronouns and his current male-gendered name.

After learning of a lawsuit challenging a school in Virginia for denying transgender student’s access to bathrooms and other accommodations matching their gender identity, G.G. v. Gloucester School Board, plaintiff began to use the men’s restrooms at school. In G.G, the United States Department of Justice (USDOJ) had issued a statement of interest explaining that it was the agency’s position that Title IX of the Education Amendment of 1972 requires that schools receiving federal funding allow transgender students to use restrooms and other single-sex, multi-occupancy facilities that match their gender identities. When confronted by KUSD officials over his use of the men’s restrooms, plaintiff’s mother explained to them that based on the USDOJ’s position, KUSD is required to allow him access to the men’s restrooms. However, KUSD officials nevertheless maintained that plaintiff was not allowed to use the men’s restrooms after that meeting.

When plaintiff continued to use the men’s restrooms after his meeting (and subsequent meetings) with KUSD officials, he was repeatedly threatened with disciplinary action. School security guards were instructed to report students who entered the “wrong” restrooms (when questioned, those guards said that they understood the instructions to be targeted at plaintiff). Eventually, KUSD officials allegedly informed plaintiff that he and other transgender students would be required to wear bright green wristbands to make them easier to identify, stigmatizing plaintiff and exposing him to attacks by students and other persons prejudiced against transgender persons.

In response to KUSD’s actions, on July 19, 2016, plaintiff brought this suit against KUSD in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, under 42 U.S.C. §1983, 28 U.S.C. § 2201, and Title IX of the Education Amendment (20 U.S.C. §§ 1681 et seq.). Represented by the Transgender Law Center, along with the civil-rights law firms Relman Dane & Colfax and the Robert Pledl Law Office, plaintiff argued that KUSD’s discriminatory actions violated Title IX and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. he asked the court to declare that KUSD has violated Title IX and the Fourteenth Amendment, to issue a preliminary and permanent injunction requiring KUSD to take various steps to prevent further discrimination against plaintiff, to order KUSD to take steps to cure the detrimental effects that their actions have had on plaintiff’s education, to award plaintiffs damages for the emotional distress caused by KUSD’s actions, and to award plaintiffs costs and attorneys’ fees. As of July 25, 2016, the case is ongoing; defendants have not responded to plaintiff’s complaint. District Judge Rudolph T. Randa has been assigned to the case, but has not yet ruled on anything.

Ryan Berry - 07/25/2016

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Constitutional Clause
Equal Protection
Elementary/Secondary School
Gender identity
Type of Facility
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. §§ 1681 et seq.
Defendant(s) Kenosha Unified School District No. 1
Plaintiff Description Transgender male student denied access to school facilities and activities matching his gender identity
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Relman, Dane & Colfax
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Form of Settlement None on record
Order Duration not on record
Case Closing Year n/a
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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Case Studies Courts and Kids: Pursuing Educational Equity Through the State Courts
By: Michael Rebell (Columbia University, and Campaign for Educational Equity)
Citation: (University of Chicago Press, 2009)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Links Dear Colleague Letter: Athletic Activities Counted for Title IX Compliance
Posted: Sep. 17, 2008
By: United States Department of Education—Office of Civil Rights (U.S. Department of Justice)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

2:16-cv-00943 (E.D. Wis.) 07/27/2016
ED-WI-0002-9000 PDF | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint 07/19/2016
ED-WI-0002-0001 PDF | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Randa, Rudolph Thomas (E.D. Wis.)
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Allen, Michael Gerhart (District of Columbia)
ED-WI-0002-0001 | ED-WI-0002-9000
Pennington, Alison (California)
ED-WI-0002-0001 | ED-WI-0002-9000
Pledl, Robert Theine (Wisconsin)
ED-WI-0002-0001 | ED-WI-0002-9000
Turner, Ilona Margaret (California)
ED-WI-0002-0001 | ED-WI-0002-9000
Wardenski, Joseph J (District of Columbia)
ED-WI-0002-0001 | ED-WI-0002-9000
Defendant's Lawyers None on record
Other Lawyers None on record

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