ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – A federal judge has denied a transgender student at Nease High School a preliminary injunction that would allow him to use the boys bathroom while he's awaiting a trial on a lawsuit filed against the St. Johns County School Board earlier this year.
Drew Adams and his family sued because under school rules, he can only use designated gender-neutral bathrooms, which are far away from his classes. Drew just began his junior year at the school.
The School Board's legal response to the motion for injunction argued that its existing policy allows Adams to use either the bathroom corresponding to his biological sex or a gender-neutral bathroom, and with a recent expansion to Nease, there are now 11 gender-neutral bathrooms on campus. It also said Adams' claim "grossly exaggerates" the amount of time it takes to get to and from the gender-neutral restrooms.
In denying the motion for an injunction on Thursday, Judge Timothy Corrigan said he would expedite the nonjury trial on the lawsuit and set a November trial date. Both sides must present a case management schedule to the court by next Friday.
Lambda Legal filed the discrimination lawsuit against the school board on behalf of Drew Adams in June.
His attorney, Paul Castillo, said Drew is an honor student who wants to attend medical school to become a psychiatrist.
Castillo told News4Jax in June that Drew has been living as a boy since 2015 and used the boys restroom when he started his freshman year at Nease without any incident. At some point that year, someone anonymously reported that Drew was using the boys restroom, and he was told he could only use the gender-neutral restrooms, Castillo said.
“When I was pulled out of class and told I could no longer use the boys restroom, I was shocked and demoralized. It made me feel like my school didn’t want me just because I’m transgender,” Drew said. “It makes me sad to be told that they don’t want to treat me like all the other kids in school. I don’t want any other students to have to feel like this.”
Drew said in addition to feeling discriminated against by the rule, it forces him to use less convenient restrooms. He said there are fewer gender-neutral facilities and they are generally five to 10 minutes farther away from his classes and in isolated areas.
"It's very anxiety provoking. It's very isolating to be told, 'Here's what the normal kids are doing. You're not allowed to do that. Here's what everyone's doing. You're not allowed to do that.' So it makes me aware the school sees me as a different person, as a lesser person, as a second-hand student and not like my peers, even though I'm just a normal kid," Drew said.
Lambda Legal's complaint argues that the school district’s policy to exclude transgender students from the restrooms that match their gender is unconstitutional because it discriminates based on sex in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments Act.
After the lawsuit was filed, St. Johns County School Superintendent Tim Forson released a statement.
“We disagree with the plaintiff’s interpretation of the law,” Forson said. “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.”