Transgender 16-year-old's bathroom suit against school could move quickly through court

In June, Florida teenager Drew Adams filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against his high school, claiming he was denied entry to the boys’ bathroom because he is transgender.

On Thursday, his case, filed on his behalf by Lambda Legal, was dealt both a setback and some hope in one fell swoop at a two-hour-plus hearing, according to the Florida Times-Union: First, a judge denied a preliminary injunction against the school which would have granted Adams access to the boys’ room prior to a trial.

Second, that same federal judge, Timothy Corrigan, vowed to expedite the trial to as soon as December, telling Adams, “I do take your case seriously,” according to the report, and adding that the young man` was “entitled to prompt consideration.”

Adams, 16, of Jacksonville, Fla., a student at Allen D. Nease High School, filed a lawsuit against the St. Johns County School Board, claiming anti-transgender discrimination “on a daily basis,” according to the complaint.

“Although Drew is a hard-working, high-achieving student, the school has discriminated against him by refusing him access to the boys’ restrooms,” it continues. “This conduct has a negative and harmful impact on Drew, branding him as unfit to share the communal restrooms that all other boys use simply because he is transgender. Drew brings this suit because he has a simple request: to be treated like other boys who can use the restroom so that he too can focus on school, rather than the humiliation of being denied access to the facilities all others use for one of life’s most basic functions.”

Adams’ lawsuit argues that the school’s requiring him to use a different bathroom than other boys — he has been relegated to use one of three gender-neutral restrooms — is a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which bars sex discrimination in education. Adams began identifying as male in 2015.

Lead counsel Tara Borelli of Lambda was not immediately available for comment. But she told the Times-Union that Adams and his mom, Erica Adams Kasper, filed the lawsuit only after their efforts to work with the district directly got them nowhere.

School board attorney Terry Harmon told the paper said the school board restricts usage of boys’ and girls’ rooms to students based on biological sex, not according to a student’s gender identity. He added that while schools are not going to check sex at the door, it must respond if a complaint is raised by a student or parent of a student, and said that the school board only recognizes Adams as a female “for purposes of bathroom use only.”

The Adams case is one of many in which a transgender student is suing his or her school for discrimination. Such lawsuits — including those fought by students and their families in MaineColorado, and Wisconsin — typically revolve around bathroom access, making it an issue that has been politicized by both parties and has even made its way to the Supreme Court. One such federal lawsuit, by three transgender students against a school district in Pittsburgh was recently settled, with the district now allowing students to use restrooms that correspond to their “consistently and uniformly asserted gender identity.”

A suit filed earlier this month by the family of an 8-year-old in California goes further, citing discrimination not only by bathroom restriction but by the school allegedly refusing to use her female pronoun or to allow her to wear the girls’ school uniform.

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