Transgender student at Kenosha high school wins appeal, can use boys' bathroom

MADISON — A federal appeals court says a transgender student who identifies as a male should be able to use the boys' bathroom at his Wisconsin high school.

In September, U.S. District Judge Pamela Pepper granted 17-year-old high school senior Ashton Whitaker permission to use the boys' bathroom at Kenosha's Tremper High School. Kenosha Unified School District appealed the ruling, arguing that the harm to other students, particularly male students using the bathroom, outweighs any harm to Whitaker.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected this reasoning Tuesday, May 30th. Judge Ann Claire Williams says harms to others are speculative while harms to Whitaker are well-documented. Those include suicidal thoughts as well as medical issues stemming from avoiding the bathroom. According to court documents, in 2016, security guards were ordered to monitor Whitaker's restroom use and "Ash experienced feelings of anxiousness and depression. He once more began to contemplate suicide."

"I was really distraught about it. Then there would be times when we had our first success at initial court rulings in September that was such a beacon of hope," Whitaker said.

This was the first time a court at the federal level has ruled anti-discrimination laws apply to transgender students.

"It was really disheartening fighting against the entire school district that basically tells you to not exist," Whitaker said Tuesday. "I'm just very excited for my future now. This is an opportunity to keep moving forward."

A lawyer for the school district didn't immediately return a message for comment.

CLICK HERE for a statement from the Transgender Law Center.