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School board to pay $1.3 million in legal fees to ACLU in trans student case

<i>Kristen Zeis/AP</i><br/>Gavin Grimm is shown during a news conference on July 23
Kristen Zeis/AP
Gavin Grimm is shown during a news conference on July 23

By Liam Reilly, CNN

The school board in Gloucester County, Virginia, has agreed to pay the American Civil Liberties Union $1.3 million in legal fees for representing Gavin Grimm during a legal battle over transgender bathroom rights at school, the ACLU said in a news release.

The six-year lawsuit was the result of a “discriminatory restroom policy for transgender students” that “violates Title IX and the Constitution,” the release said.

“Gavin simply wanted the same rights, dignity and respect as his classmates, yet the school board fought against him every step of the way,” Eden Heilman, legal director of the Virginia ACLU, told CNN.

“This should serve as a warning to other schools in Virginia and across the nation: There is a high cost for discrimination against transgender students. There’s a cost to the safety and well-being of our kids, and there’s a cost to taxpayers when school boards break the law.”

The school board issued this statement on Thursday: “The insurance provider for the Gloucester County School Board has addressed the Plaintiff’s request for attorney fees and costs resulting from the Grimm v. Gloucester County School Board litigation. The School Board has no further comment on this matter.”

US Supreme Court ruled in June

Grimm filed suit against the school board in 2015, when he was a high school sophomore, arguing that the school’s policy violated Title IX and the Equal Protection Clause.

Grimm, a transgender male, said the school system denied him access to the boys bathroom.

In August 2020, a federal appeals court ruled in Grimm’s favor. Last June, the US Supreme Court left in place the lower court’s decision that allowed Grimm to use the bathroom that corresponded to his gender identity.

The decision was a victory for the LGBTQ community that has been fearful the high court would take up the case and reverse a lower court opinion.

Grimm says he won’t get any of the money

Grimm, now 22, told CNN that the money is exclusively for the ACLU’s legal fees.

“I was never going to receive this money, nor did I give it to them: It was only ever going to them,” he said.

“Financial difficulties can be the largest deterrent,” he continued. “It sends the message that transphobia is not OK and is an expensive thing.”

Grimm says the legal fees’ resolution marks the end of the lawsuit.

He said “business as normal is next. Back to the same old, same old.”

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