Evolving Laws and Policies: An Update on Transgender Students’ Civil Rights in Schools

Proceedings of The 5th World Conference on Education and Teaching

Year: 2023



Evolving Laws and Policies: An Update on Transgender Students’ Civil Rights in Schools

Suzanne E. Eckes. J.D., Ph.D.



Over the past ten years, U.S. courts have weighed in on whether students’ rights are violated when school policies prohibit them from using restrooms or playing on sports teams that match their gender identities. In these lawsuits, transgender students typically allege violations under the U.S. Constitution, federal, or state laws.  The sports cases continue to evolve, but in the vast majority of restroom cases, courts have rendered decisions that end in a favorable result for the student.  These cases often focus on Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 or the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.  A recent Circuit Court’s en banc decision contradicts other federal circuit courts that have examined this issue. It has created a split in the circuit, which could invite U.S. Supreme Court review if the student plaintiff appeals.  The circuit court decision also comes at a time of harmful and nonsensical attacks in several state legislatures across the country against transgender students.
This article first identifies several of the court decisions that have addressed these issues and how the courts’ rulings influence school policy.  These court cases are briefly examined to provide a framework for the legal arguments that have arisen in these challenges. The findings should be helpful to policy makers, lawyers, school officials, students, families, and scholars as it is the first article to highlight the evolution of all of the litigation in this area.

keywords: constitution, discrimination, equity, gender, legal