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Appellate Court: Florida School District May Require Trans Students To Use Bathroom Of Birth Gender

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A federal appeals court has ruled that a Florida school district may require transgender students to use the restroom of their birth sex, and not their gender identity.

As The Free Press reported, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday held that the St. Johns County School Board could require a transgender man, Drew Adams, a former student at renowned Nease High School, to use either a gender-neutral bathroom, or the girls’ restroom.

In a 7-4 decision that may have resolved a five-year legal battle, barring an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, the appellate court determined that St John’s County’s policy did not violate Title IX, the federal law that bans sex-based discrimination in education programs.

In court documents, the majority said, “Single-stall, sex-neutral bathrooms are provided to accommodate any student, including the approximately five transgender students at Nease, who prefer not to use the bathrooms that correspond with their biological sex.”

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In its ruling, the court noted, “Because Adams is biologically female and first enrolled in the School District as a female, Adams is identified as a female for purposes of the bathroom policy. For the first few weeks of ninth grade, Adams used the male bathrooms (in violation of the bathroom policy) without incident.”

But that changed when male students did complain, and the district enforced the rule, prompting the lawsuit.

In the ruling, Circuit Judge Barbara Lagoa noted that the School Board’s policy “advances the important governmental objective of protecting students’ privacy in school bathrooms.”

“The school board’s bathroom policy is clearly related to — indeed, is almost a mirror of — its objective of protecting the privacy interests of students to use the bathroom away from the opposite sex and to shield their bodies from the opposite sex in the bathroom, which, like a locker room or shower facility, is one of the spaces in a school where such bodily exposure is most likely to occur,” Lagoa continued.

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Lagoa also noted that on a birth certificate and other documents submitted when Adams enrolled in St. John’s County schools, the student was identified as a biological female. Thus, the district’s policy demanded that Adams use either the girls’ bathroom or a gender-neutral one.

“The bathroom policy does not depend in any way on how students act or identify,” Lagoa added. “The bathroom policy separates bathrooms based on biological sex, which is not a stereotype.”

And showing the political breakdown, the News Service of Florida, which also reported on the ruling, noted that the seven judges in the majority were appointed by Republican presidents, while the dissenters were named by Democrats. 

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