St Johns School District sued over gender-neutral restrooms

Historic City News has learned that Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against the St. Johns County School Board last Wednesday on behalf of Drew Adams, a junior at Nease High School, seeking reversal of district policy which has required Adams to use gender-neutral restrooms.

According to the complaint, Adams has been inconvenienced and stigmatized by having to use one of three gender-neutral restrooms on the 200,000-square-foot campus since September 2015; shortly after Adams, who was born a girl, began identifying as a male.

“The school board should be watching out for the well-being of its students, but through their discriminatory actions they have failed Drew and the other transgender students at the school,” said Paul Castillo, a senior attorney with Lambda Legal during a press conference. “No student can thrive in a school where he is treated like a second-class person.”

In response to a 2016 federal directive under Title IX that bars sex discrimination in education, the school district opted to create gender-neutral, single-occupancy restrooms for transgenders or other students wanting more privacy. Use of the public restrooms on campus remained restricted to a person’s sex assigned at birth. The directive encouraged, but didn’t mandate, compliance by public schools.

“We disagree with the plaintiff’s interpretation of the law. Beyond that, it would be inappropriate for us to try this case in the media,” School Superintendent Tim Forson said in a press statement. “We will work through the legal process with our school board and its general counsel.”

The lawsuit is based on the claim that “Drew Adams is being discriminated against in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, as well as the Title IX federal directive.” Castillo said the legal team has filed a motion for a preliminary injunction, which potentially could force the district to lift its policy even before the pending case is decided.

An appeals court in Wisconsin recently found in favor of a transgender student who sought to use the bathroom corresponding to his gender identity. The court ruled in the case, Whitaker v. Kenosha Unified School District, that the student’s constitutional rights had been violated by not allowing him access to the boys’ bathroom.

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