The Kenosha Unified School Board recently voted to settle a lawsuit brought by a recent transgender graduate who had sued the district for alleged acts of discrimination. The plaintiff, Ash Whitaker, and his attorneys will receive $800,000 as part of the settlement, with $650,000 of the total going to attorney’s fees.
Whitaker, who identifies as a man, claims that the district monitored their restroom use and alleged that the district planned to force transgender students to wear green armbands. Whitaker also says they were forced to stay in a hotel room by themselves on a school trip rather than being allowed to stay in the room with other boys.
The board’s 5-2 vote came after a protracted court battle that they contended could cost them as much as $3 or $4 million were they to proceed with the case. U.S. District Court Judge Pamela Pepper issued an injunction which allowed Whitaker to use male restrooms at Tremper High School. In May, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the injunction, leading the district to file a petition with the Supreme Court. The estimated costs of following that petition through to the end proved to be cost-prohibitive for the district. In the current settlement, they will pay a $25,000 deductible to their insurance company who will pay the remainder of the amount owed to Whitaker and his attorneys.
The district wanted the Supreme Court to settle the issues in the case since it was the first time an appeals court had applied “sex discrimination” to transgender students. In addition, the board denies Whitaker’s claims that they monitored restroom use or planned to make transgender students wear green armbands.
Board member Gary Kunich voted against the settlement and worried that the settlement opens the district up for future legal action. “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. I want the Supreme Court to settle this once and for all, not just for our district, but for other districts.”
Whitaker, who graduated last year and is a biomedical engineering major at Wisconsin-Madison, will be allowed to use the men’s room when visiting Tremper High School in the future.
Photo courtesy: ©Thinkstock/nito100
PUblication date: January 16, 2018