Here's what the Wisconsin transgender bathroom ruling means for other cases

Transgender student wins appeal in final week of school

A federal appeals court says a transgender student who identifies as a male should be able to use the boys' bathroom at his Wisconsin high school.

The Kenosha Unified School District had appealed U.S. District Judge Pamela Pepper's September ruling and argued that the harm to other students, particularly boys using the bathroom, outweighed any harm to Whitaker, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

A federal appeals court on Tuesday officially sided with a transgender student who challenged a Wisconsin school district's policy limiting his bathroom usage. U.S. Circuit Judge Ann Claire Williams claimed in a 35-page written opinion that if a school does not allow trans students to use the restroom that most closely matches their sense of self, that decision "punishes that individual for his or her gender non‐conformance".

It is one of a string of legal battles on behalf of transgender people across the United States over the use of bathrooms in schools and public buildings, which has become a divisive political issue.

The high court punted just days before the scheduled argument, after the Trump administration withdrew Obama-era Department of Education guidance requiring school districts to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms of their choice.

In an attempt to justify its differential treatment of transgender students and satisfy heightened scrutiny, the school district argued that it was attempting to protect the privacy rights of other students. "This places the burden on the School District to demonstrate that its justification for its bathroom policy is not only genuine but also "exceedingly persuasive".this burden has not been met here".

"I am thrilled that the Seventh Circuit recognized my right to be treated as the boy that I am at school", Whitaker said, according to the statement. However, Williams said that the school's policy was unconstitutional because it did not treat transgender students the same as cisgender students.

"For almost six months, Ash used the boys' bathroom while at school and school-sponsored events without incident or complaint from another student", the court said.

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"That finding has incredibly huge implications, in both the 7th Circuit and nationally", IL law professor Anthony Michael Kreis said.

Whitaker's case has drawn many parallels to the fight of transgender senior Gavin Grimm in Gloucester, Va., who also sued his local school board after it adopted a policy barring him from using the boys' restroom.

"I've basically stopped using the bathroom at school altogether, which makes it painful and hard to get through the school day", Whitaker (photo above, with his mother) said last summer when he first sued his school district.

The court held that Whitaker is likely to prevail on her Title IX claim that she is being "sex-stereotyped" as a girl because of her biological status as a female.

Whitaker was in junior high school when she decided "to openly identify as a boy", the court explains.

Lawyers representing Ash and his family said they're fighting for all trans people to be protected under federal law and it starts with Whitaker's case. While the Kenosha Unified School District wasn't supportive of his lifestyle, court records say that fellow students were generally accepting.

Still, the 7th Circuit decision "sends a clear message to schools across the country that they should be protecting all students", he said.

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