School Agrees to Pay $800,000 After Transgender Student Born Female Is Denied Use of Boys' Bathrooms

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A school board in Wisconsin has agreed to pay $800,000 to settle a lawsuit in the case of a transgender former student born female who was initially denied the request to use boys' bathrooms.

The Kenosha Unified School Board voted 5-2 Tuesday night in favor of the $800,000 settlement, Kenosha News reported. Lawyers said that $650,000 of that sum would go toward attorney's fees.

The student, Ash Whitaker, a biological female who identifies as a male, claimed the school had carried out discriminatory practices in requiring that students use the bathrooms of the gender they were born with.

Whitaker, who graduated Tremper High School in June 2017, also claimed that school staff would monitor trips to the bathroom.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled in May to uphold U.S. District Court Judge Pamela Pepper's injunction allowing Whitaker to use male-only restrooms despite the school's directives.

The settlement also allows Whitaker to use male bathrooms when returning to the school as an alumni.

"I am deeply relieved that this long, traumatic part of my life is finally over and I can focus on my future and simply being a college student," Whitaker, who is now attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said in response to the settlement decision.

"Winning this case was so empowering and made me feel like I can actually do something to help other trans youths live authentically. My message to other trans kids is to respect themselves and accept themselves and love themselves. If someone's telling you that you don't deserve that, prove them wrong."

Ronald S. Stadler, the board's lawyer, insisted that the district "never engaged in any acts of overt discrimination against transgender individuals," according to The New York Times.

"I think eventually the Supreme Court is going to have to take this issue and issue a ruling," Stadler said, "because we have lower courts all across the country that have looked at it in various ways, and it's not always consistent."

Gary Kunich, one of the two board members to cast a dissenting vote, said that the settlement would not resolve the issues behind the case.

"I understand from the financial point of view based on what our insurance carrier said ... I understand that that is a key part of that," Kunich said, referring to fears that if the case went to the Supreme Court the costs would soar into the millions.

"But my issue with settling this [is] we aren't settling anything."

Kunich also called for clearer laws in the U.S. so that other school districts don't face lawsuits.

"This opens us up to additional lawsuits and additional costs and I realize we have two issues. We have the civil rights argument on one side and the privacy rights on the other," he said.

"I want the Supreme Court to settle this once and for all, not just for our district, but for other districts."

In another settlement last August, a charter school in Minnesota agreed to pay $120,000, as well as to institute a gender-neutral school uniform policy and train its staff in transgender student sensitivities, after a civil lawsuit from the parents of a transgender student claimed the school did not do enough to protect their child from experiencing bullying and harassment.

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