Metro Weekly

High School Fined $16,500 for “Breaking” Transgender Athlete Law

The Florida High School Athletic Association penalized Monarch High for allowing a transgender girl to play on its girls' volleyball team.

Girls volleyball – Photo: Dotshock / Dreamstime

Florida state officials fined a high school $16,500 for violating the state’s law prohibiting transgender athletes from competing on teams that don’t match their assigned sex at birth.

The Florida High School Athletic Association penalized Monarch High School in Coconut Creek for allowing a transgender girl to play on its girls’ volleyball team.

The high school must pay the $16,500 fine, and school representatives must attend and host “compliance” workshops directing personnel on their obligations under the law.

The student in question — one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit that challenged the law and has since been dismissed by the courts — will be ineligible to participate in sports until November 2024.

The school has also been reprimanded with a letter that becomes “a permanent part of its membership record” in the FHSAA, and has been placed on athletic probation for the next year, as first reported by the conservative Daily Signal.

Monarch High School is allowed to appeal the decision within ten days. Officials with Broward County Public Schools said in a statement that its “investigation into the matter remains ongoing at this time.”

The punishment handed down against Monarch is the first instance of a school being penalized for violating the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,” primarily aimed at preventing transgender female athletes from competing on women’s sports teams.

The law allows “biological females” to compete on “athletic teams or sports designated for males, men, or boys,” as well as in sports that are designated as “co-ed.”

“Thanks to [Republican Governor Ron DeSantis], Florida passed legislation to protect girls’ sports, and we will not tolerate any school that violates this law,” Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. wrote in a post on X. “We applaud the swift action taken by the FHSAA to ensure there are serious consequences for this illegal behavior.”

The sanctions against Monarch High School come after the county school district reassigned five school employees to off-campus jobs while investigating the allegations that a transgender athlete was allowed to play on the girls’ volleyball team.

The relocated employees were school principal James Cecil; assistant principal Kenneth May; athletic director and girl’s volleyball coach Dione Hester;  IT technician Jessica Norton; and coach Alex Burgess.

Following the reassignments, hundreds of students at Monarch High School held a walkout in protest. 

Norton, one of the reassigned employees, is the mother of the transgender student at the center of the dispute, according to Politico.

Norton’s family had challenged the transgender ban, only to have it dismissed, but is currently amending their complaint, arguing that the ban is discriminatory and unconstitutional.

The Nortons also noted, in the lawsuit, that their daughter previously took puberty blockers to prevent the onset of male secondary sex characteristics and is currently receiving hormone therapy to keep her testosterone levels suppressed. They argue that those treatments indicate that their daughter shouldn’t enjoy a physical advantage over female athletes because she never went through male puberty.

Norton has said publicly that she and her family have received an “outpouring of love in support” in liberal-leaning Broward County after she was reassigned.

However, she also noted that the controversy about her daughter’s participation had stripped her family of their privacy — despite using their first names and referring to their daughter by her initials in the lawsuit challenging the transgender sports ban.

“There is a long history in this country of outing people against their will — forced outing, particularly of a child, is a direct attempt to endanger the person being outed,” she said.

Florida’s ban is one of 23 laws — most of which were passed in GOP-leaning states — that seek to restrict people assigned male at birth from competing in female athletics to ensure cisgender females are allowed to earn accolades and awards for their athletic performances. Opponents argue such laws are discriminatory and are only being pushed by Republicans to play up culture-war issues or for electoral gains.

“Florida’s transgender sports ban didn’t emerge from a genuine concern for school athletics — it was part of a cynical political strategy to dehumanize and scapegoat marginalized youth,” former Florida State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (D-Orlando), who is now a senior policy adviser for the LGBTQ+ advocacy group Equality Florida, told Politico.

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