A school district in Wisconsin will have to pay out $800,000 after they were sued by a transgender student for discrimination. The student, named Ash Whitaker, a former student of Tremper High School, sued the Kenosha Unified School District in 2016 for not allowing him to use the boys' bathroom and bringing forth disciplinary action if he chose to do so regardless of the rule.
In June 2017, days after graduating from high school, the Seventh Court Circut of Appeals ruled against the school district and upheld a lower court's decision to allow him to use the male restroom throughout his senior year.
The school district had to withdraw its US Supreme Court appeal challenging the decision as a result of the settlement, according to the Transgender Law Center. The Transgender Law Center actually represented Whitaker in the case and served as his representation. Another result of the settlement is the ability for Whitaker to use the men's restroom if he ever decides to return to the campus in the future. Unfortunately, Whitaker is the only individual who this ruling applies to.
Kenosha News reported that the school board voted 5-2 in regards to the settlement.
650,000 dollars of the 800,000 total will go toward attorney costs leaving only around 150,000 dollars to Whitaker himself. However, the results and acceptance that this case brought forward will leave a lasting impact on Whitaker and many court cases of its kind that may arise in the future.
If you're wondering what caused the school district to settle, it's as simple as this:
The settlement was driven by the school's "insurance company’s concern over the legal developments, the mounting costs of defending the claim and ultimately a risk of having to contribute toward Whitaker’s significant attorneys’ fees," said Ronald Stadler, an attorney for the school district. In regards to the taxpayers' money, "The only taxpayer funds spent by the district in defending this matter was its $25,000 deductible."
As for Whitaker himself, he is tremendously happy that this part of his life is over. He notes, "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,”
And we don't blame him in the least bit.
Whitaker explained that his former high school practiced evident discrimination against him by suggesting that all of his classmates wear bright green labels in order to closely monitor bathroom usage. The school also refused to call him by his preferred name or pronouns. The school also refused to let him run for prom court and often isolated him from his peers. Due to these multiple instances of harassment and discrimination, he developed severe anxiety and depression.
Now, the school district will have to pay out that $800,000 because of all the issues that their discrimination brought forth in Whitaker's life.
More important than the monetary value, however, is the idea that this court case will have a lasting impression on future events such as this. Joesph Wardenski, one of Whitaker's attorneys said in a statement, "This settlement sends the clear message to all school districts that discriminating against transgender students is against the law and harms students who simply want to go to school,".
Whitaker has become admired by many in the transgender community for his fight against the discrimination he faced.
"My message to other trans kids is to respect themselves and accept themselves and love themselves," Whitaker notes. "If someone’s telling you that you don’t deserve that, prove them wrong."
Ash Whitaker is now attending school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.