Ash Whitaker and mom surrounded by classmates celebrate a federal Judge’s temporary injunction ordering the Kenosha Unified School District (KUSD) to cease requiring him to wear an armband signifying his transgender status.
Earlier this year Planet Trans reported that the Kenosha Unified School District had instructed guidance counselors to have Ash Whitaker, a 16-year old transgender boy, and “any other transgender students at the school” wear “bright green wristbands” so that the school could “more easily monitor and enforce [their] restroom usage.” KUSD’s insistence that Whitaker wear a “badge of shame” was reminiscent of what the Nazis did to humiliate and endanger LGBT people.
Whitaker had been using the boy’s room uneventfully for seven months when he was denied access to boys’ restrooms and the school began requiring him to use girls’ restrooms or a single occupancy restroom. The lawsuit brought by the Transgender Law Center alleges that school staff was directed to monitor his restroom usage and to report to administrators if he was observed using a boys’ restroom. The Staff intentionally and repeatedly used his birth name and female pronouns and failed to appropriately inform substitute teachers and other staff members of his authentic name and pronouns, resulting in those staff referring to him by his birth name or with female pronouns in front of other students.
“For the first time this year, I feel like I can actually make it through my senior year of high school just like any other boy in my class,” 17-year-old Ash Whitaker said in a statement released by The Transgender Law Center. “It’s awful going to school every day with the constant stress and stigma from being segregated from my peers and from administrators watching my every move just because of who I am. I’m so relieved I’ll be able to just go to class, apply to college, and graduate without worrying if I’ll get in trouble for using the restroom.”
U.S. District Judge Pamela Pepper read her decision aloud from the bench, holding that Ash would continue to suffer irreparable harm if KUSD continued to deny him access to the boys’ restroom during his senior year. In her decision, Judge Pepper explicitly recognized the emotional, psychological and physical harm Ash has endured under KUSD’s discriminatory policy and the importance to transgender people of being treated in accordance with their gender identity.
The complaint in Whitaker v. Kenosha Unified School District No. 1 Board of Education alleges that KUSD’s policy of denying Ash access to the boys’ restrooms and other discriminatory actions—including school administrators’ insistence on using Ash’s birth name and female pronouns, the school’s repeated isolation of Ash from his peers on overnight school trips, and a proposed policy to require transgender students to wear green wristbands or stickers—violate Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
Today’s ruling follows a ruling yesterday denying the school district’s motion to dismiss the case. KUSD has indicated that the district plans to appeal today’s decision granting the preliminary injunction and to appeal yesterday’s decision denying the district’s motion to dismiss the case.