Duval schools sued over transgender bathroom policy

DCPS says it will abide by feds' directive on transgender bathroom access

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A parent is suing Duval County Public Schools, Superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti and the school board in response to the district's announcement that it will abide by last week's Education and Justice departments' decision that transgender students be allowed to use bathrooms of the gender with which they identify, even if that's not the gender listed on their birth certificate.

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday by attorney Wesley White on behalf of Wryshona Isaac, who has four kids – ages 8, 9, 13 and 15 – in Duval public schools. White, is seeking an injunction against the policy, saying, “The action of the defendants denies her children a safe and supportive environment that would allow them to thrive and grow, and deprives them of the right to bodily privacy.”

In the court documents, White says the district’s “blind adoption” of the policy is “factually and legally baseless and a blatant violation of the privacy rights of children.”

White pointed out that the district has never gotten a complaint by a transgender student that the previous policy was discriminatory, according to court documents.

White goes on to say Isaac’s children will be subjected to “significant emotional turmoil, psychological damage, confusion relating to their own sexual identification and ultimately distract from or destroy their education environment.”

"Now, when we throw open the doors to restrooms and locker rooms to people of different sex, you know, I think that's basically impossible to say what can and can't happen as a result of that," White said.

At his office in Jacksonville's Riverside neighborhood, White explained to News4Jax his client's concerns in the newly filed lawsuit.

"Her family and her children were against the idea that all bathrooms should be transgender bathrooms and so we filed an action in the circuit court to try to establish that is an incorrect application of the law," said White, who's currently running for state attorney. 

Tuesday morning, DCPS school board member Scott Shine sent News4Jax his statement on the mandate.

VIEW: Scott Shine's statement

News4Jax contacted DCPS about the lawsuit Tuesday afternoon, and a spokesperson said the district does not have a bathroom policy. It has an existing anti-discrimination and equity clause in its policy manual. Gender was added to protections for race and color in 2008. Beyond that, the district said in cannot comment on pending litigation.

Vitti released a statement Friday saying the district would comply with the federal requirements:

"The school district will continue to adhere to federal requirements per Title IX which includes complying with regulations related to gender definition, gender identities and use of school bathrooms. We have historically problem-solved and developed solutions for situations regarding gender identity concerns for our students and staff. As a district, we will continue to provide guidance, procedures and additional training for school officials to ensure we are meeting all federal guidelines."

The lawsuit was filed just days after the Obama administration said that public schools must permit transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their chosen gender identity, even if their education records or identity documents indicate a different sex.

State Rep. Janet Adkins, R-Fernandina Beach and a candidate for superintendent of Nassau County schools, sent Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi a letter this week asking the state to challenge the federal directive. Adkins accuses the Obama administration of encroaching on state's rights, a violation of the constitution.

Adkins wrote that allowing people to make a decision based on how they identify their gender, quote "creates a chaotic environment for school administrators." She also said it harms "the greater need for an orderly learning environment that promotes safety and well-being."

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