Nease transgender student wins case against St. Johns County School Board

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U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Corrigan ruled on Thursday, July 26 that the St. Johns County School Board can no longer prohibit transgender student Drew Adams from using the boys’ restroom at Nease High School.

Adams, who has been living as a boy since 2015, sued the School Board for discrimination in June 2017. In the lawsuit, the Nease senior asked the court to force the School Bistrict to change its policy requiring transgender students to use gender neutral restrooms and allow them to use the restrooms they identify with as their gender.

According to court documents, Corrigan’s ruling incorporated an injunction preventing the School Board from enforcing its policy that would prohibit Adams from using the boys' restroom at Nease High School, and a compensatory damages award of $1,000.

"Drew Adams says he is a boy and has undergone extensive surgery to conform his body to his gender identity," Corrigan said in the decision. "Medical science says he is a boy; the State of Florida says so and the Florida High School Athletic Association says so ... the evidence is that Drew Adams poses no threat to the privacy or safety of any of his fellow students. When it comes to his use of the bathroom, the law requires that he be treated like any other boy."

Corrigan ultimately ruled that the School Board’s bathroom policy violated Adams’ rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972.

Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, a staff attorney for the LGBT legal advocacy group Lambda Legal, said he was pleased with the conclusion of the year-long case. Gonzalez-Pagan represented Adams in court.

“We are ecstatic,” he said. “For one, we are incredibly happy that Drew gets to finish high school now in his senior year being treated as the boy he is in all aspects of his academic life. This is a huge victory for Drew and trans students everywhere.”

Adams said he was “overwhelmingly relieved” and “extraordinarily happy” with Corrigan’s ruling.

“I’m having trouble coming up with the correct adjective to describe how happy I am,” he added.

Adams noted that his friends have reached out to him following the ruling to show their support. The transgender student also said he is ready to move on with his academic career, and the ruling was a huge burden lifted off his shoulders.

During the trial, Adams’ parents noted from a young age that the Nease student rejected stereotypically feminine behaviors and attributes, such as playing with dolls or wearing dresses. As he grew older, Adams began to develop anxiety and depression in response to his body growing as a female. After seeing a mental health professional, his therapist determined that he met the criteria for gender dysphoria and in May 2016, the psychologist supported his request to begin transitioning to a male.

St. Johns County School District Superintendent Tim Forson responded to Corrigan’s ruling in a prepared statement obtained by the Recorder.

"We believed our policy was legal and one which struck a balance of the rights of all students," Forson said. "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.”

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