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Virginia school board to pay $1.3 million in transgender student's suit

Gavin Grimm argued that a Virginia district's policy denying him access to the boys' restroom was discriminatory. He was assigned female at birth.
2017 GLAAD Rising Stars Luncheon
Transgender activist Gavin Grimm attends the GLAAD Rising Stars Luncheon at The Hilton Midtown on May 5, 2017 in New York City.Mike Pont / WireImage file

A school district in Virginia has agreed to hand over $1.3 million after fighting a discrimination lawsuit filed by a transgender student for more than five years ago.

The American Civil Liberties Union announced Thursday that the Gloucester County School Board has been ordered to pay the money to cover attorneys' fees and costs in the case involving onetime student Gavin Grimm, whom it represented.

The board said in a terse statement that its insurance provider has "addressed" the order. The board and the superintendent did not immediately respond to requests for comment Saturday.

The ACLU said in a statement that the board, in a court filing, has agreed to pay.

Grimm sued the district in 2015 in federal court, alleging that its policy of prohibiting him from using the boys' bathrooms violated a federal law, known as Title IX, that bans sex discrimination in school programs.

Grimm was assigned female at birth but legally changed his name and began hormone therapy as a freshman in high school. His school principal allowed him to use the boys' bathrooms, but the board overruled the decision and prohibited it.

Federal courts twice sided with Grimm, and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case in June.

The lack of action by the high court disappointed some conservatives, including Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, who said it should have heard the case. The conclusion came as conservative states and districts have focused on transgender bathroom rules as a base-rousing political issue.

"After a year in which state legislatures have introduced an unprecedented number of bills targeting trans youth, we hope that the fee award will give other school boards and lawmakers pause before they use discrimination to score political points," Josh Block, senior staff attorney with the ACLU LGBTQ & HIV Project, said in the organization's statement.

Grimm faulted the district for spending so much time and taxpayer money on the case.

"Rather than allow a child equal access to a safe school environment, the Gloucester School Board decided to fight this child for five years in a costly legal battle that they lost," he said in the ACLU's statement.

The civil liberties group urged Virginia districts to adopt the guidance of the state Department of Education, which states that students have "a right to learn free from discrimination and harassment."

Last year Grimm, now 22, announced he had been elected to the ACLU Board of Directors.