In recent years, the rights and experiences of LGBTQ people have been a growing subject of national news media coverage, scholarly research, case law, and policymaking. Within the educational context, the attention has been significant. Thus, it is an important time to examine the legal landscape of this topic, which demonstrates a trend in litigation that recognizes the rights of transgender and gender-expansive students.

In August 2020, the 11th Circuit (Alabama, Florida, Georgia) affirmed a federal district court’s opinion, finding the school’s policy prohibiting a transgender male student from using the boys’ restroom as a violation of the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause and Title IX. The court held that the policy was administered in an arbitrary way and that it lacked any factual support. Also, in August 2020, after five years of litigation, the Fourth Circuit (Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia) issued its decision in Gavin Grimm’s case, finding both a violation of the Equal Protection Clause and Title IX when Gavin was prohibited from using the boys’ restroom.

As highlighted above, the outcomes of the court cases have ended in a favorable result for K-12 transgender students. Even though the U.S. Supreme Court has not addressed the matter, these issues present emerging legal concerns that will be important to watch. In addition to litigation, research will continue to increase our comprehension of this important policy topic. For example, current research demonstrates that policies excluding transgender and gender-expansive youth in schools have a detrimental impact on their overall well-being, whereas inclusive school policies increase student engagement and improve academic, emotional, and psychological well-being. These studies will assist school leaders in understanding the need to create a school climate that is accepting of all students.

Read the full article about LGBTQ student rights by Suzanne Eckes and Maria Lewis at Brookings.