Updated at 2:30p with reaction and additional information.
The Kenosha School Board will ask the U-S Supreme Court to decide whether it can legally bar transgender students from using the bathrooms of their gender identities. The board plans to appeal unfavorable rulings in a case that had been filed by a transgender student, Ash Whitaker.
The Tremper High School student graduated earlier this month. But the legal issues that sparked his successful lawsuit remain.
Without referring to the suit itself, board member Gary Kunich said at a school board meeting Tuesday night that he’s looking for definitive guidance. "I really do think it's important to let this get settled finally once and for all," he said in response to a retired school counselor who spoke during citizens' comments.
Before the decision to appeal was revealed, Gayle Clark-Taylor had urged the board at Tuesday's meeting to drop the case and form a committee to come up with ways to make life easier for transgender students. "I think we will end up with a lot of blood on our hands because we are creating a hostile learning environment for students," she said.
Attorneys for Whitaker won favorable rulings in part by detailing the depression, anxiety and other problems that Whitaker purportedly suffered as the result of KUSD's transgender bathroom policy.
The nation's highest court has yet to rule on the constitutional issues that have been raised in Whitaker versus Kenosha Unified. It is not obligated to hear the Kenosha case.
The district announced the appeal with with release Tuesday night of a one-line statement from KUSD's attorney: ""We have decided to seek a definitive ruling from the Supreme Court and will begin the process in the near future."
One of Whitaker's attorneys, Joe Wardenski, issued his own statement through the Transgender Law Center: "The unanimous decision from the Seventh Circuit could not be any more definitive: The Kenosha Unified School District violated federal civil rights laws by discriminating against Ash without a valid justification, harmed Ash and denied him equal educational opportunities as a result, and must now allow transgender students to use restrooms at school corresponding to their gender identity. KUSD should accept the appeals court's unambiguous ruling and move forward to create a safe, inclusive, nondiscriminatory school environment for all of its students."
Prior to federal court intervention, Whitaker, who's at-birth gender identity was female, was threatened with disciplinary action if he used boys' restrooms at Tremper.
The appeals are being financed by the district's insurance company. The district met its $25,000 deductible, according to school spokesperson Tanya Ruder.