Eleventh Circuit Court Must Affirm Trial Ruling Allowing A Transgender Florida Student To Use the Right Restroom

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February 22, 2019
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Watch Drew's story.

Lambda Legal today urged the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit to affirm a lower court ruling and require a suburban Jacksonville, Florida, school district to allow a transgender male student to continue to use the restroom that matches who he is.

“Every student should have the same opportunity to be treated with dignity and respect, and to thrive at school,” said 18-year-old Drew Adams, a senior at Allen D. Nease High School in Ponte Vedra, Florida. “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.”

In December 2017, Drew Adams took the stand in the first ever trial involving a transgender student’s access to restrooms. Last July, the U.S District Court for the Middle District of Florida ordered St. John’s County School District to allow Adams to use the boys restroom at Nease High School, like all the other boys. The school district then appealed that ruling to the Eleventh Circuit. Drew will continue to use the boy’s restroom at school during the appeal.

“The district court was very clear when it stated that the law ‘requires that he be treated like any other boy,’” said Tara Borelli, Counsel at Lambda Legal. “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.”

“I can’t believe that we had to go to court in the first place to defend my son’s dignity. 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,” said Drew’s mother, Erica Adams Kasper.

Drew Adams is in senior year at Nease High School, where he is an honor student. Drew plans to get a degree that will allow him to help other LGBT youth. He has been active in his local community as a volunteer at the Mayo Clinic. He plays four musical instruments, enjoys jiu jitsu and video games, and wants to be treated like any other boy.

Drew has known for many years that he is a boy and began living as the boy that he is in 2015. He used the boys’ restroom when he started his freshman year at Nease High School without any incident. But, after an anonymous report 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.

The case Adams v. The School Board of St. Johns County, Florida began in June 2017, when Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit on behalf Drew Adams arguing that St. Johns 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 Education Amendments of 1972. The district court ruled for Drew on both counts after a trial, holding that the School Board’s policy violated the Fourteenth Amendment and Title IX.

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