Victory! Court Orders Florida School District to Allow Transgender Student to Use the Men’s Restroom

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July 26, 2018
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Drew Adams with Lambda Legal at NYC Pride 2018

Today a federal court ruled in a Lambda Legal lawsuit that St. Johns County School Board in St. Augustine, FL, a suburb of Jacksonville, discriminated against Drew Adams, a 17-year-old boy, by denying him access to the boys’ restroom because he is transgender.

“I am so grateful that I can just focus on being a regular kid at school. I have so many other things on my mind, like getting into my top college choice, so I don’t want to have to worry about whether I can use the boys’ restroom,” said Drew Adams. “It was upsetting to think my school didn’t want me because I am transgender, and I hope no one else has to feel like that.”

“Throughout the trial, the court addressed Drew the way his family, friends, community, and even the state of Florida treat him—as a boy. For St. John’s County School Board to have a policy that says Drew is somehow less deserving of the same safe, respectful learning environment as any other child because he is transgender is discriminatory,” said Paul D. Castillo, Senior Attorney and Students’ Rights Strategist at Lambda Legal. “We are pleased that Drew will be able to start his senior year being able to use the restroom that matches who he is, just like any other student."

US District Court Judge Timothy J. Corrigan wrote in his decision:

"[T]he evidence is that Drew Adams poses no threat to the privacy or safety of any of his fellow students. Rather, Drew Adams is just like every other student at Nease High School, a teenager coming of age in a complicated, uncertain and changing world. When it comes to his use of the bathroom, the law requires that he be treated like any other boy.”

“I am still heartbroken to know that the place my child spends more time than at home with me was discriminating against him for being transgender, but I am so relieved that the court has put a stop to this humiliating restroom policy,” said Adams’s mother, Erica Adams Kasper.

Drew Adams will begin his senior year at Allen D. Nease High School in Ponte Vedra, FL when he returns to school in August. He’s an honor student who plans to attend medical school to become a psychiatrist. He is active in his local community as a volunteer at the Mayo Clinic. He plays four musical instruments, enjoys video games, and says that he just wants to be treated like any other boy.

Drew has known for many years that he is a boy, and began living openly as a boy in 2015. He used the boys’ restroom when he started his freshman year at Nease High School without any incident. But, after an anonymous complaint was made, he was told he could only use gender neutral restrooms, which separated him from his peers and treated him as unfit to share communal facilities with others.

In June 2017, Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit on behalf Drew Adams and his mother Erica Adams Kasper arguing that St. John County School Board’s discriminatory restroom policy sent a purposeful message that transgender students in the school district are undeserving of the privacy, respect, and protections afforded to other students.

Lambda Legal argued that the school district’s policy to exclude transgender students from the restrooms that match their gender is unconstitutional because it discriminates based on sex in violation of the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments Act. The Court ruled for Adams on both counts, holding that the School Board’s policy violated the Fourteenth Amendment and Title IX.

Tara Borelli, Paul Castillo and Omar Gonzalez-Pagan are handling the matter for Lambda Legal. They are joined by Jennifer Altman, Shani Riveaux, Markenzy Lapointe, Aryeh Kaplan, Richard Segal, Nathaniel Smith, Robert Boyd and William Miller of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP and Kirsten Doolittle of the Law Office of Kirsten Doolittle, P.A..