Republican bid to ban trans kids from bathrooms in Virginia flies in face of Supreme Court ruling

Sign for inclusive bathroom, with symbol indicating male, female and trans as well as handicapped symbol

A Republican lawmaker has introduced a cruel bill that would restrict trans students’ access to the correct restrooms and stop teachers from teaching about racism.

House Bill 1126, introduced by delegate John Avoli, would require school boards in Virginia to adopt policies that prevent trans students and staff from accessing facilities that align with their gender identity.

This bill would prevent trans people from using same-sex locker rooms and “other changing facilities” in public school buildings. It would also extend to any same-sex “lodging accommodations” used during school-sponsored trips.

The bill says that “single-user” restrooms, locker rooms and other facilities in school buildings should be accessible by request. But this is only “if the school can reasonably accommodate such a request”.

AnhThu Nguyen, the executive director of the Shenandoah LGBTQ Center in Staunton, told News Leader that she was disappointed, but not surprised at the anti-trans bill.

She added that Avoli’s bill ‘undermines’ protections for trans students put forth by Virginia’s department of education (VDOE) to support trans students “during a really formative time of their lives”.

Nguyen also slammed such legislation for “lessening protections for trans students” in Virginia and the US more broadly.

“We know that when trans youth don’t feel safe at school and are subject to harassment that results in higher rates of depression and anxiety and alcohol and drug use and lower self-esteem,” she said.

The anti-trans bill flies in the face of a landmark ruling in favour of trans trailblazer Gavin Grimm.

Gavin Grimm Virginia trans bathroom ban

Gavin Grimm. (ACLU)

In 2014, when he was just 15 years old, Grimm was banned from using the correct bathroom at his school in Virginia.

He filed suit against the Gloucester County School Board in 2015 and eventually took his case to the Supreme Court. A federal court ruled the school’s ban was discriminatory in 2019, and this ruling was upheld by an appeals court the following year.

The ACLU, which represented Grimm alongside the ACLU of Virginia, announced in August that the school board had been ordered to pay more than $1.3 million in attorney’s fees and costs to Grimm.

After years of fighting for the rights of trans people, Grimm said he was “not getting any of the money that the school board” paid out and was only getting $1 in “nominal damages”. It was revealed in December that Grimm had experienced a health and financial crisis in the wake of the ruling.

Avoli’s wide-reaching bill would also allow any parent to “opt his child out of any class or course activity, lesson or reading assignment” or use any educational material that the parent “objects” to.

It would also prohibit schools from teaching that the US is “fundamentally racist” or that any “individual is racist, privileged, oppressive, biased or responsible for actions committed by others of the same race”.

Avoli is reportedly in favour of teaching about the “contributions” of all races and ethnic groups, News Leader reported.

“To come in and put this critical race theory situation, it’s absurd,” Avoli said. “It becomes divisive. I’m not a racist. I’ve never been in my life, but because I’m white, you’re telling me I’m a racist.”