11th Circuit Confirms Florida School District Policy that Denied Transgender Student Access to the Bathroom is Unconstitutional

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July 15, 2021

Today, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit released a revised opinion affirming a lower court ruling that a Florida high school policy that denied a transgender student access to the boys’ restrooms was unconstitutional. Lambda Legal filed the case four years ago on behalf of then-high school student Andrew Adams and his mother, Erica Adams Kasper, against the St. Johns County School Board. Lambda Legal Senior Counsel Tara Borelli issued the following statement:

“Today’s revised opinion by the 11th Circuit affirms that the Florida school district policy that denied transgender student Andrew Adams access to the boy’s restroom is unconstitutional and constitutes sex discrimination. The court agreed that the school district policy that treated Andrew Adams differently was arbitrary and unjustified.

“This decision affirms the lower Florida district court ruling from 2017 that held the St. Johns County school policy discriminated against Andrew, and it sends a strong message that discriminatory school policies that treats transgender students differently are arbitrarily and unconstitutional. All that Andrew Adams wanted was to be treated fairly, to be allowed to use the boy’s restroom and to be respected as any other kid. Instead, Andrew was singled out for different and stigmatizing treatment and was denied access to equal educational opportunity. We hope that this ruling helps bring this process to an end, so that Andrew can have the final vindication he deserves and move on with the equal dignity and respect that he deserves.”

 

The opinion by a 3-judge panel reads:

“We affirm the District Court’s judgment. We conclude the School District’s policy barring Mr. Adams from the boys’ restroom violates the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection, because the School District assigns students to sex- specific bathrooms in an arbitrary manner. We affirm the District Court’s award of damages because Mr. Adams undoubtedly suffered harm as a result of this violation.”

 

Background

Andrew Adams was an honor student at Nease High School. Currently, Andrew attends the University of Central Florida, where he’s studying psychology and political science with the goal of helping other LGBTQ youth. Andrew has been an active member of his local community as a volunteer at local hospitals, and with organizations that support LGBTQ youth.

Andrew began living as the boy 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 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 same privacy, respect, and protections afforded to other students.

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Contact Info

Samy Nemir, C: (202)672-4877, snemir@lambdalegal.org

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