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Florida Transgender Student Sues Over Restroom Access

Drew Adams
Drew Adams

Drew Adams says his school district violated federal law and the U.S. Constitution by forcing him to use inconveniently located unisex restrooms.

A transgender high school student in Florida has sued his school district because it barred him from using the boys' restroom.

Drew Adams transitioned in the summer of 2015 and began attending Allen D. Nease High School in Ponte Vedra that fall, The Washington Post reports. He started using the boys' restroom there, but after about a month, an anonymous complaint came in, and school officials forced him to use unisex restrooms, and they were so inconvenient that he sometimes missed classes to make the trip, he says.

He and his mother, Erica Kasper, appealed to school officials but could not reach an agreement, and they also filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights. The office opened an investigation but stopped it after a federal judge last summer blocked guidelines issued by the Obama administration advising school districts to let trans students use the restrooms consistent with their gender identity. Those guidelines have now been rescinded, and the Department of Education has not been in communication with the family for about a year, the Post reports.

Because of that, Adams and Kasper filed suit last week against the St. Johns County School Board and school administrators, saying that denying Adams access to the boys' restroom violates federal law -- specifically, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which bans sex discrimination by schools that receive federal funds. Under President Obama, the Education and Justice departments held that Title IX also banned gender identity discrimination. The suit also alleges the policy violates his right to equal protection of the laws under the U.S. Constitution.

"Forcing me to use a separate restroom ... makes it clear to me that the school district sees me as a lesser person," Adams, now 16, told the Post.

His suit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida. He is represented by Lambda Legal.

Other transgender teens have sued over restroom access with varying degrees of success. Virginia student Gavin Grimm's case was set to go to the Supreme Court this year after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit found in his favor and his school district appealed. But the Fourth Circuit's decision was based partly on the Obama-era guidelines, and with those guidelines now rescinded, the high court decided against hearing the case and told the Fourth Circuit to reconsider its ruling, this time basing it on Title IX alone.

In May another federal appellate circuit, the Seventh, upheld Kenosha, Wis., student Ash Whitaker's right to use the boys' restroom at his school. The court ruled that both Title IX and the Constitution's Equal Protection Clause ban gender identity discrimination, making it the first federal appellate court to do so.

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