Jacksonville Area School Board Sued for Discriminating Against Transgender Student
Lambda Legal has filed a federal discrimination lawsuit in the Middle District of Florida against the St. Johns County School Board in St. Augustine, FL, a suburb of Jacksonville, on behalf of Drew Adams, a 16-year-old boy, who is being denied access to the boys’ restroom because he is transgender.
“Drew is a boy, but St. John’s County School Board separates him from his peers and marks him as inferior just because he’s transgender. Forcing Drew to use a separate restroom sends a terrible message to the whole school community that Drew is different and somehow not worthy of an equal learning environment,” said Paul Castillo, Senior Attorney and Students’ Rights Strategist at Lambda Legal. “The school board should be watching out for the well-being of all its students, but through their discriminatory actions they have failed Drew and the other transgender students at the school. No student can thrive in a school where he is treated like a second-class person.”
Drew is 16-year-old boy who is transgender and he will begin his junior year at Allen D. Nease High School in Ponte Vedra, FL when he returns to school in August. He’s an honor student who wants 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 has several pets, including two rats named Biscuit and Noodle. He says he just wants to be treated like any other boy.
Drew has been living as the boy that he is since 2015. He used the boys’ restroom when he started his freshman year without any incident. But after someone anonymously reported he was using the boys’ restroom, he was told he could only use the gender neutral restrooms, which separates him from his peers and treats him as unfit to share communal facilities with others.
The Lambda Legal lawsuit was filed on behalf of Nease High School rising junior Drew Adams and his mother Erica Adams Kasper. In the complaint, Lambda Legal argues that St. John County School Board’s discriminatory restroom policy sends a purposeful message that transgender students in the school district are undeserving of the privacy, respect, and protections afforded to other students.
“When I was pulled out of class and told I could no longer use the boys’ restroom, I was shocked and demoralized. It made me feel like my school didn’t want me just because I’m transgender,” said Drew Adams. “It makes me sad to be told that they don’t want to treat me like all the other kids in school. I don’t want any other students to have to feel like this.”
“It broke my heart when I learned that they were singling Drew out and making him feel unwanted,” said Erica Adams, Drew’s mother. “When he transitioned, I knew he might face some discrimination, but I never imagined that he would be disrespected and degraded by his school, too.”
Erica Adams wrote letters and had meetings with school officials, but they refused her requests to change the policy and allow Drew access to the boys’ restroom.
The complaint argues 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.
Lambda Legal will file a motion for preliminary injunction soon to seek relief from the school’s discriminatory policy.