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Kenosha School District Settles Trandsgender Student’s Lawsuit For $800K

School Board Votes 5-2 To Approve Settlement Involving Former Student Ash Whitaker

Gender neutral bathroom sign
Toby Talbot/AP Photo

A discrimination lawsuit between a transgender student and the Kenosha Unified School District has ended in an $800,000 settlement.

The school board voted 5-2 Tuesday evening to support a settlement that has the district’s insurance company paying Ash Whitaker’s attorneys $650,000 and Whitaker himself $150,000. The settlement ends the district’s petition to the U.S. Supreme Court challenging lower court rulings that allowed Whitaker to use the boys’ restrooms at his high school.

Whitaker, who was born female but identifies as a male, sought to use the boys’ bathroom at Tremper High School. But school administrators said it would harm other students. Whitaker graduated from the high school in June.

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The settlement brings no change in district policy beyond Whitaker. Whitaker will be allowed to use men’s restrooms when returning to campus as an alumnus or a community member. A U.S. District judge previously issued an injunction that allowed Whitaker to use the boy’s restroom as a senior at Tremper.

In 2016, Whitaker, then a student at Tremper, filed a federal lawsuit claiming the district’s policy of requiring him to use either girls’ restrooms or a unisex bathroom was discriminatory. In the lawsuit, Whitaker claimed he suffered from anxiety, depression and other physical and educational harms.

Whitaker alleged staff at Tremper monitored his use of the bathroom.

Whitaker won a series of court battles that led the district to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, setting the stage for a possible landmark decision.

But late last year, the two sides initiated a discussion that led to the settlement and the end of the appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, according to the school district’s attorney, Rod Stadler.

Continuing to pursue the challenge, Stadler said in a statement, could lead to “several million dollars” in additional exposure. Any additional expenses would largely be borne by the district’s insurance company.

Gary Kunich was one of two board members who voted against the settlement Tuesday night.

“My issue with settling this is that we aren’t settling anything,” Kunich said. “Our policies are still the same. The law has not changed. We have not heard from the Supreme Court. This opens us up to additional lawsuits.”

Stadler said after the meeting that similar cases are being litigated and could potentially wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court to decide the issue once and for all, but Stadler said that it’s unlikely that any of the cases will reach the court in time for a decision this year.

No one from Whitaker’s side of the lawsuit was present for the vote Tuesday. But the Kenosha News reports Whitaker expressed relief that the case is over.