A transgender teenager who sued his Wisconsin school district for what he claimed was vicious discrimination against him has been awarded an $800,000 settlement.
On Tuesday evening, the Kenosha Unified School Board voted 5–2 in favor of settling the suit from Ash Whitaker, who alleged that he’d been made to wear a special identifying wristband and had his bathroom breaks monitored while attending Tremper High School.
Ron Stadler, an attorney for the district, denied the allegations to the Kenosha News, and insisted the settlement was done for financial reasons.
“We estimated if we went up to the Supreme Court, and/or back down to trial court to try the case and go through anything, that their fees would be somewhere between $4 million and $5 million,” Stadler told the paper. “So, it becomes a real economic decision in terms of balancing risks and the downside of being given an adverse decision.”
He added that only $150,ooo of the settlement money would go to Whitaker directly, with the rest being put toward the teen’s legal fees.
Whitaker, currently in his first year at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, told the News that he was “relieved” to end this chapter of his life.
“Winning this case was so empowering and made me feel like I can actually do something to help other trans youths live authentically,” he said. “My message to other trans kids is to respect themselves and accept themselves and love themselves. If someone’s telling you that you don’t deserve that, prove them wrong.”
Whitaker’s settlement comes nearly a year after the United States Supreme Court turned down a case brought by Gavin Grimm, a trans teen in Virginia who sued his school district over access to the restroom that corresponded to his gender identity. Grimm’s case, filed as North Carolina was grappling with its own anti-trans bathroom ban, became a flashpoint in the growing fight for trans equality across the U.S.
According to the News, the Kenosha School Board’s settlement also guarantees Whitaker the right to use the men’s restroom anytime he returns to the school campus.