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The United States Supreme Court has denied an Indiana public school district’s motion to uphold a policy limiting students’ access to restrooms based on gender.
After a lower court found that a middle school’s policy violated students’ constitutional rights and ran afoul of federal anti-discrimination law—by barring transgender students from using facilities like locker rooms or bathrooms that align with their self-professed gender identity—the justices declined to hear an appeal by the Metropolitan School District of Martinsville.
The district’s legal team had pleaded with the judge to “preserve the autonomy of school boards to make decisions,” Fox News reported.
Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in education, and the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection under the law conferred protections on a student, “A.C.,” according to a 2023 decision by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.
In announcing its ruling, the Supreme Court remained silent. Over the past few years, the highest court has largely sidestepped contentious transgender rights cases.
An aide to Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita, who had previously sided with the school district in its lawsuit, was critical of the Supreme Court’s decision not to intervene.
“The Supreme Court did not take a necessary opportunity to provide clarity, particularly with such a split among the appellate courts on this issue. It makes little sense for SCOTUS not to resolve the difference in federal cases, but because of this split, children in other parts of this country will be properly protected,” the spokesperson said in a statement to Fox News Digital.
“Unfortunately, for now, our schools will be forced to allow transgender students to use whichever bathroom they feel corresponds to the gender identity they’ve picked to use on that day. We will continue our fight so regular, common-sense Hoosier parents can raise their children free of this toxic transanity,” the spokesperson added.
Republican lawmakers in multiple states have pushed for policies that hurt transgender people. These policies include those that limit the teaching of sexual orientation and gender identity in schools, ban minors’ access to medical procedures that reshape their gender, and encourage school sports participation based on a person’s biological gender.
A mother sued the school district and middle school principal in Indiana on behalf of her daughter, who was 13 years old and gender dysphoric, after the school forbade her from using the boys’ restrooms.
After a lower court prevented the Metropolitan School District of Martinsville, Indiana, from implementing a policy that mandates transgender students use the restroom according to their biological sex, the district appealed to the Supreme Court, but the court has now decided not to hear their case. (Digital Fox News)
U.S. District Judge Tanya Pratt sided with A.C. in 2022, mandating that the school provide the student with gender-neutral restrooms. After the 7th Circuit upheld Pratt’s decision, the school took its case to the Supreme Court, where a conservative majority of 6-3 controls the court.
In a legal filing, the school district maintained that Title IX allows for gender segregation in restrooms and that schools have a right to protect their students’ interests “in shielding their bodies from exposure to the opposite sex.”
School policies that impact transgender students have been the subject of conflicting rulings from lower courts. Just last month, a school that enforced the use of gender-neutral or sex-matching restrooms for transgender students won a case before the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Two additional federal appeals courts have upheld the right of transgender students to use restrooms that correspond with their gender identity.
Many petitions have urged the Supreme Court to settle the differences, but the court has turned down numerous chances to do so.
The Supreme Court upheld a 4th Circuit decision in 2021 that benefited a transgender student who had sued for access to restrooms that corresponded with their gender identity.
In a more recent case, the Supreme Court in April 2023 denied West Virginia’s request to enforce a statute that forbade transgender students who were born male from playing any school sport that was traditionally associated with girls.