St Johns County School District still fighting bathroom segregation

Although they lost their case in Federal Court, the St Johns County School District appeared at the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta today, arguing that they should not be ordered to allow students to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity. 

Their action sets the stage for a groundbreaking ruling.  The 11th Circuit could become the first federal appeals court to issue a binding ruling on the issue, which has arisen in several states.  The ruling would cover schools in Florida, Georgia and Alabama, and could carry the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Drew Adams, transitioned from female-to-male before starting his freshman year at Nease High School in Ponte Vedra Beach.  He and his mother made headlines at Historic City News last year when they won a lower court ruling ordering the local St. Johns County School District to allow Adams to use the boys’ restroom.  Since graduation, Adams has become a student at the University of Central Florida.

Adams said he used the boys’ restroom without incident for weeks until several girls complained. He and his mother eventually sued in federal court, winning an order that he could use the boys’ restroom, after a bench trial.

However, the St Johns County School District isn’t satisfied.  They have appealed the ruling, arguing that although it will permit transgender students to use single-occupancy, gender-neutral restrooms, it shouldn’t be forced to let students use the restroom of the gender they identify with.

The district argues that Adams is not a boy and that he should be excluded from the boys’ bathroom because those born as boys have “the right to be free from exposing one’s private and personal space and unclothed and partially clothed body to members of the opposite sex.”

The trial judge rejected that argument, finding that Adams would use a stall and that no breach of privacy would occur.

“Plaintiff’s anatomy has no relevance to his ability to use the boys’ restroom,” wrote Adams’ lawyer, Tara Borelli of Lambda legal. “Defendant’s witnesses conceded at trial that Drew is treated differently because he is transgender, which is sex discrimination.”

Borelli says the law, called Title IX, does cover transgender people and that it’s impossible for the school board to carry out its desired policy without sex-based discrimination.