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Victory for Transgender Rights as Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Case on School Bathroom Policy

"Trans and non-binary people belong everywhere," said the ACLU.

Demonstrators protest for transgender rights on February 25, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. The demonstrators were angry with President Donald Trump's decision to reverse the Obama-era policy requiring public schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity. (Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday affirmed "that transgender youth are not a threat to other students," the ACLU said, after the high court refused to take up a case regarding a school district in Oregon, where a group of parents objected to a policy allowing transgender students to use the bathrooms that correspond with their gender identities.

A ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will now stand, allowing the Dallas School District in Dallas, Oregon to uphold its policy. The federal court ruled in February that the school district did not threaten anyone's constitutional rights.

"As we look towards state legislative sessions that will likely continue the attacks on trans youth, the decision not to take this case is an important and powerful message to trans and non-binary youth that they deserve to share space with and enjoy the benefits of school alongside their non-transgender peers," said Chase Strangio, deputy director for trans justice at the ACLU’s LGBT & HIV Project. 

The ACLU took on the case in 2018, on behalf of Basic Rights Oregon (BRO), which advocates for legal protections for LGBTQ people in the state. 

"Trans and non-binary people belong everywhere," the ACLU tweeted Monday as it celebrated the Supreme Court's refusal to challenge the lower court ruling. 

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In 2017, a group of parents in Dallas challenged the district's policy regarding a transgender boy, who was permitted to use the boys' locker rooms and restrooms. 

According to GLSEN, 60% of transgender students in the U.S. are forced to use bathrooms that do not match their identity, and 70% of transgender students avoid using the bathroom at school because of such policies. 

In 2016, President Barack Obama's Departments of Education and Justice issued joint guidance directing public schools to allow students to use bathrooms and locker rooms which match their gender identity. The guidance was revoked less than a year later by the Trump administration, in what the National Center for Transgender Equality called an "attack" on children.

Federal courts in recent months have ruled in favor of other students who objected to being forced to use bathrooms that correspond with their sex assigned at birth rather than their gender. An appeals court sided with a former student in Virginia in August regarding his school's policy, and another court came to a similar conclusion in Florida that same month.  

The ACLU said Monday that it expects new state legislative sessions to bring more legislation attacking transgender students' rights. 

"We will continue to fight in courts, in legislatures, and in our families and communities to ensure that all trans people feel safe and belong," said Strangio.

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