ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – A federal court ruled Thursday in favor of a 17-year-old transgender student in St. Johns County, whose family sued the school district for discrimination after he was denied access to the boys restroom.
Drew Adams, a student at Nease High School, was told by the St. Johns County School District that he could use a gender-neutral bathroom on campus but could not use the boy's restroom, despite identifying as a male since 2015.
St. Johns County School Superintendent Tim Forsom released a statement Friday reading:
“This is a sensitive matter that brings emotional reactions from the community. As a school district, our purpose is to provide an educational environment that promotes learning and makes all students feel secure and supported. We believed our policy was legal and one which struck a balance of the rights of all students. We are disappointed with Judge Corrigan’s decision, but respect the legal process and will abide by the final outcome. We are presently studying the judge’s decision and will in the near future receive guidance from the School Board which will provide direction on the district’s next steps.”
U.S. District Court Judge Timothy J. Corrigan ruled Adams should be allowed to use the boys bathroom.
Corrigan wrote in his decision:
"[T]he evidence is that Drew Adams poses no threat to the privacy or safety of any of his fellow students. Rather, Drew Adams is just like every other student at Nease High School, a teenager coming of age in a complicated, uncertain and changing world. When it comes to his use of the bathroom, the law requires that he be treated like any other boy."
Adams will begin his senior year at Allen D. Nease High School when he returns to school in August. He’s an honor student who plans to attend medical school to become a psychiatrist.
"My entire high school life I’ve been worried about the bathrooms. I’m very happy I can finally be a normal kid," Adams said. “I have so many other things on my mind, like getting into my top college choice, so I don’t want to have to worry about whether I can use the boys’ restroom."
Adams is a volunteer at the Mayo Clinic. He plays four musical instruments, enjoys video games, and said he wants to be treated like any other boy.
Adams used the boys’ restroom when he started his freshman year at Nease High School. After an anonymous complaint was made, he was told he could only use gender neutral restrooms.
“I am still heartbroken to know that the place my child spends more time than at home with me was discriminating against him for being transgender, but I am so relieved that the court has put a stop to this humiliating restroom policy,” said Adams’s mother, Erica Kasper.
Attorneys argued the 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. The Court ruled in Adams' favor on both counts.
“He’s amazed me everyday of this process, he’s been strong for all of us," Kasper said. "He’s done so much more than any other 17-year-old should have to do and he’s my hero, absolutely.”
While the lawsuit only involved Adams, St. Johns County school officials are aware of 16 other transgender students. Adams said he hopes the ruling helps them too.