Federal appeals court rules for transgender student

On Behalf of | Dec 14, 2020 | Civil Rights

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a Florida school district violated a transgender male student’s rights over its policy barring him from using the boys’ restroom.

The 2-1 majority decision says the district violated the boy’s rights under Title IX provisions and the equal-protection clause.

Decision bolsters transgender rights

The appeals court says a recent Supreme Court ruling – Bostock v. Clayton County, Ga. – strengthened the student’s case. The ruling determined that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act protects transgender workers from discrimination.

The majority decision said Bostock confirmed that discrimination against transgender people isn’t permitted in the workplace and it shouldn’t be allowed in schools. Judges said the school’s bathroom policy singled the boy out because he is transgender.

School took action after a complaint

The student in question, Drew Adams, is now a 19-year-old college student. He was assigned the female gender at birth but was living as a boy by the time he entered ninth grade at Nease High School in Ponte Vedra, Fla., in 2015.

Adams used the boys’ bathroom during the first nine weeks, but school administrators informed him he would have to use the girls’ restroom or a gender-neutral bathroom located in the school office after a complaint.

Adams and his mother sued the district saying discrimination “based on sex” is banned in schools receiving federal funds under Title IX of the Education Amendments. Their suit also cited the equal-protection clause in the 14th Amendment.

11th Circuit says lawmakers’ intent is clear

The St. John’s County district argued that school environments are much different from workplaces, and that administrators and local governments should make those decisions. However, the chief judge said Congress was clear over its effort to outlaw discrimination based on sex in federally funded schools.