Metro Weekly

11th Circuit to decide whether Florida transgender student can use boys’ restroom

Lower court found that allowing Drew Adams to use boys' restroom "poses no threat to privacy or safety" of other students

Photo: Nikolai Nolan, via Wikimedia.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will decide whether a transgender male from a suburban Jacksonville-area school district should be allowed to use the boys’ restroom.

The lawsuit in question was filed by Drew Adams, an 18-year-old honor senior at Allen D. Nease High School in Ponte Vedra, Fla. Adams, who transitioned in 2015 and began using the boys’ restroom at the start of his freshman year.

After an anonymous complaint was lodged against him, the school, citing the district’s policy on transgender students, told Adams he could only use gender-neutral restrooms.

Enlisting the help of Lambda Legal, Adams sued the School Board of St. John’s County, Fla., arguing that the policy is discriminatory because it sends a message that transgender students are undeserving of the privacy, respect, and protections afforded to their cisgender peers.

Lambda Legal has also argued, both at the district level and before the 11th Circuit, that the policy is unconstitutional because it violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972.

The district court agreed, finding in Adams’ favor. In his opinion, U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan, of the Middle District of Florida, wrote that allowing Adams to use the boys’ restroom “poses no threat to the privacy or safety of his fellow students.”

“Every student should have the same opportunity to be treated with dignity and respect, and to thrive at school,” Adams said in a statement. “As if high school isn’t hard enough, I shouldn’t need a court to keep my school from discriminating against me just because I want to use the same restroom as the other boys. I hope no other student has to feel degraded and unwanted like I did at school.”

“The district court was very clear when it stated that the law ‘requires that he be treated like any other boy,'” Tara Borelli, counsel at Lambda Legal, said in a statement. “By continuing to pursue this appeal, the School Board is sending a message across the state that transgender students like Drew are somehow less deserving of the same safe, respectful learning environment as any other child.”

The 11th Circuit is expected to hear the case in the coming months, and will issue a ruling deciding whether to uphold Corrigan’s order or overturn it. The court may also a more nuanced decision, such as one in which it decides that the policy violates the Equal Protection Clause, but does not violate Title IX, by adopting the view that anti-transgender discrimination is not a form of sex discrimination.

Adams’ mother, Erica Adams Kasper, is begging the 11th Circuit to uphold the lower court’s ruling.

“I can’t believe that we had to go to court in the first place to defend my son’s dignity,” she said in a statement. “We are grateful that a trial court already put a stop to this humiliating policy. I am hopeful that this court will also see the truth and agree that this kind of discrimination hurts kids.”

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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