11th Circuit Rules Florida School’s Transgender Bathroom Policy Unconstitutional

11th Circuit Court of Appeals

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday that denying Drew Adams use of the boy’s bathroom was in violation of his civil rights.

Court House News reports that in a 2-1 decision, the Atlanta-based appeals court found that the St. Johns County school board violated Nease High School graduate Drew Adams’ civil rights by instructing Adams to use a gender-neutral or girls’ restroom and warning him that he would be subject to disciplinary action if he used the boys’ bathroom.

Related: Monday Dec 7, 2020 the Supreme Court declined to hear yet another case in which a lower court had ruled in favor of transgender student rights.

Mr. Adams entered Nease High School in ninth grade, after he began transitioning and presenting as a boy. Mr. Adams’s mother informed the school that Adams was transgender, currently transitioning, and should be considered a boy student, but did not discuss Adams’s bathroom use with the school.

For his first six weeks as a ninth-grader, Mr. Adams used the boys’ restroom. One day, however, the school pulled Mr. Adams from class and told him he could no longer use the boys’ restroom because students had complained. These complaints came from two unidentified girl students who saw Mr. Adams entering the boys’ restroom. There were no complaints from boy students who shared bathroom facilities with Adams.

Regardless, school officials gave Mr. Adams two choices: use a single-stall, gender-neutral bathroom in the school office, or use the girls’ facilities.

In issuing this warning to Mr. Adams, Nease High administrators were acting to enforce the St. Johns County School District’s (the “School District”) unwritten bathroom policy. For “as long as anybody can remember,” the School District has maintained a policy that, for restroom use, “boys go to boys’ rooms, [and] girls go to girls’ rooms.” The School District defines “boy” and “girl” based on “biological sex,” separating “biological boys” from “biological girls.”

It administers this policy based on the sex indicated on a student’s enrollment documents. Because Mr. Adams enrolled in St. Johns County schools in the fourth grade as “female,” the School District’s policy considered him a “biological girl” who could not use the boys’ restroom, regardless of Mr. Adams’s updated legal documents or verified course of medical treatment. Students who fail to abide by the School District’s bathroom policy can be disciplined for violating the student code of conduct.

The dissenting opinion’s central flaw is that it does not meaningfully reckon with what it means for Mr. Adams to be a transgender boy. The dissent describes Mr. Adams as “a female ” calling Mr. Adams “a female who identifies as a male”.

The dissent fails to acknowledge Mr. Adams’s gender transition, his gender dysphoria and clinical treatment, or the unique significance of his restroom use to his wellbeing. The dissent also ignores the finding of the District Court that, in light of Mr. Adams’s social, medical, and legal gender transition, he is “like any other boy.”

Because the dissent does not consider Mr. Adams’s transgender status analytically relevant, it expresses the view that allowing Mr. Adams to use the boys’ restroom erodes restroom divisions for all. This argument cannot stand together with the fact, found by the District Court, that Mr. Adams is “like any other boy.”

Related via Politico: Trump hesitates to bash transgender rights as a campaign talking point fearful that he might be called a bigot.

Drew Adams speaks to reporters on December 2019 after transgender bathroom arguments in 11th Circuit Court of appeals in Atlanta

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Kelli, Busey is managing editor at Planet Transgender



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