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A federal appeals court this week upheld a lower court ruling that transgender students in Indiana must have access to school restrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity.

In a ruling published Tuesday, a three-judge panel for the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a preliminary injunction issued last year by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana that ordered two Indiana school districts — Vigo County School Corporation and the Metropolitan School District of Martinsville — to allow three transgender teenage boys to use the boys restrooms and locker rooms.

Tuesday’s opinion requires both school districts to allow the boys access to the facilities while litigation in a 2021 lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Indiana and Indiana Legal Services continues.

Kenneth Falk, legal director of the ACLU of Indiana, said in a statement following the court’s ruling Tuesday that students who are denied access to the appropriate facilities face “both serious emotional and physical harm as they are denied recognition of who they are.”

“They will often avoid using the restroom altogether while in school,” Falk said. “Schools should be a safe place for kids and the refusal to allow a student to use the correct facilities can be extremely damaging.”

At least nine states have enacted laws that ban transgender people from using restrooms or changing rooms consistent with their gender identity in K-12 schools and certain government-owned buildings, according to the Movement Advancement Project. A similar statewide ban was proposed last year in Indiana, but it failed to advance through the legislature, which is controlled by Republicans.

According to Tuesday’s ruling, all three plaintiffs are likely to succeed in arguing their claims of sex discrimination under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

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