Wisconsin school district settles discrimination suit brought by transgender student for $800K

ImageAshton Whitaker right and his mother Melissa

ImageAshton Whitaker right and his mother Melissa

Ash Whitaker, the transgender student plaintiff in Whitaker v. Kenosha Unified School District, and his former school district, Kenosha Unified School District ("KUSD") in Kenosha, Wisconsin, reached a settlement in Ash's discrimination lawsuit against KUSD, pending court approval. In his legal suit, he claimed that the school had violated his civil rights by refusing to treat him as a boy and not letting him use boy's toilet and forcing him to wear wristbands singling him out from other students.

The district "strongly denied" the allegations.

The settlement approved by the board applies only to Whitaker.

"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", Whitaker, now a freshman at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said in a statement.

"Winning this case was so empowering and made me feel like I can actually do something to help other trans youth live authentically", Whitaker said.

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"My message to other trans kids is to respect themselves and accept themselves and love themselves", Whitaker, who is now a freshman at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said. "If someone's telling you that you don't deserve that, prove them wrong".

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit previous year ruled in Whitaker's favor, upholding an injunction imposed by a lower court that kept the district from enforcing its anti-trans restroom policy while Whitaker's lawsuit proceeded through the courts.

Ash Whitaker graduated from Tremper High School in June 2017, but he sued the Kenosha Unified School District (KUSD) in July 2016 for banning him from the boys' bathroom with a threat of disciplinary action and subjecting him to daily surveillance.

Masen Davis, CEO of the LGBT group Freedom for All Americans, said in a statement the agreement was good news for transgender students.

"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", said Joseph Wardenski of the civil rights law firm Relman, Dane & Colfax, one of the firms representing Whitaker, in the law center's press release. 'We are pleased that KUSD decided not to endlessly drag this case through the courts any further, to compensate Ash for the concrete and avoidable harms he suffered and to finally allow Ash to move on from this painful chapter of his life'.

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An attorney for the district said the settlement does not affect students other than Whitaker, but Whitaker's lawyers said it is still significant. Whitaker is expected to get the balance.

Whitaker previously made headlines when he challenged his school's decision that he could not run for prom king. After he and 7,000 people signed an online petition and more than 70 of his peers staged in a sit-in at the school, administrators reversed their decision. Under the guidance of doctors and therapists, he transitioned to living as a male and came out as transgender to his family.

He described feeling "scrutinized and degraded" when administrators repeatedly tried to keep him out of the boys restrooms, or when they used female pronouns after he had asked them not to.

"The idea of using the girls restroom was humiliating and there was no way I could do it", he said in a

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