ST. AUGUSTINE – The mother of a 16-year-old transgender boy who is being denied access to the boys’ restroom at his high school is suing the School Board.
The boy, identified as Drew Adams in the complaint filed in U.S. District Court, was born a girl but has identified as a boy and began to transition in the summer of 2015. That fall Adams began attending Nease High School in Ponte Vedra.
The Florida Times-Union reports Adams, who is now a junior, has been open about being transgender since starting at Nease High School. He dresses as a boy, is undergoing hormone treatments and is a Gay/Straight Alliance student leader. Adams said he had never been harassed or questioned about is transition, “not even a funny look,” he told the Times-Union.
According to the complaint filed against the St. Johns County School Board, Erica Kasper, the boy’s mother, said after a month into his freshman year Adams was denied access to the boys’ restrooms.
School officials banned Adams after an anonymous complaint was made sometime in September 2015. School counselors told Adams to use the gender-neutral restrooms instead.
According to The Florida Times-Union, Nease High School at the time had only two gender-neutral bathrooms, one in an art classroom and one in the main office. Briefly a staff bathroom was made available, but Adams states that has since become off-limits.
According to Kasper, Adams has to walk out of his way to get to the gender-neutral bathrooms and has often been late to class as a result of it. Adams tells the Times-Union that he began to limit his liquid intake and takes other measures to comply with the new requirements.
According to The Washington Post, Kasper attempted to find a resolution with the school, but when no resolution could be reached she filed a complaint with the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights. An investigation was started but promptly stopped after a federal judge issued an injunction in August 2016. That’s when Kasper filed the lawsuit.
The suit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida and alleges that officials at Nease High School are violating Title IX, the federal law barring sex discrimination in schools. The suit also states that school officials are violating the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution.
Adams and Kasper are represented by Paul Castillo of Lambda Legal.
Castillo spoke with The Florida Times-Union, saying that in May a Wisconsin high school student won an Appellate case under similar circumstances, adding that if students complain then school officials should instead offer those students a different bathroom option.
“If any student wants additional privacy, those students can opt to use a gender-neutral restroom,” Castillo said.
The Times-Union requested to speak with officials with St. Johns County and received a written statement from Superintendent Tim Forson.
“We disagree with the plaintiff’s interpretation of the law,” the statement reads. “Beyond that it would be inappropriate for us to try this case in the media. We had no knowledge of the complaint filed today before a press conference was held. We will work through the legal process with our school board and its general counsel.”
The Washington Post reached out to School board chairman Tommy Allen yet he declined to comment, saying through his executive secretary that he could not answer questions about an ongoing legal issue.
Through all the uncertainty from the debates and lawsuits, Adams knows one thing for sure, saying to The Post, “Forcing me to use a separate restroom … makes it clear to me that the school district sees me as a lesser person.”