A recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit affirming transgender rights will affect student transporters in how they enforce bullying policies and respond to incidents, a special education attorney said.
“Transportation personnel are going to have to realize that the failure to appropriately respond to bullying, especially if that bullying is gender-related, will have civil rights implications,” said Julie Weatherly, Esq., who is scheduled to keynote next year's TSD Conference in Frisco, Texas. “And as more transgender students are coming out and asking to use the restroom or locker room designated for the gender with which they identify, others, including bullies, will know who they are. And the bus ride can be a perfect place for bullying.”
Weatherly is a special education attorney in Alabama. She pointed out that transgender issues often have nothing to do with students with disabilities and are not recognized as such by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights and the U.S. Department of Justice. This is because, she added, transgender issues like the one decided this week often involve alleged Title IX violations and bullying. The exception, she added, is when the transgender student also suffers from depression, anxiety or another mental illness and the condition is addressed on the student's Individualized Education Plan.
The Court of Appeals overruled a lower federal court’s denial of an injunction request by a transgender teen in Virginia who is suing his school district over not being allowed to use the boy’s restroom. Gavin Grimm, 16, was born female but identifies as a male. Gloucester County Public Schools barred Grimm from using the boy’s facilities because of Grimm’s biologically assigned gender. The district later provided Grimm with access to a unisex bathroom.
Grimm's attorneys argued that the district’s action violated Title IX. Weatherly added that since this is an issue of bullying, student transporters need to pay attention to the federal appeals court ruling this week.