by: Brittney Donovan, Action News Jax Updated:
A transgender student at Nease High School has filed a discrimination lawsuit against the St. Johns County School Board after he was denied access to the boys' bathroom at school.
Drew Adams is a 16-year-old boy who will enter his junior year at Nease High School in August.
The complaint filed June 28 says Drew is transgender and was incorrectly designated a female on his birth certificate.
He came out as transgender the summer before he started his freshman year at Nease High School.
The complaint says before the 2015-2016 school year started, Drew emailed his teachers to explain that the female gender marker on his school records was wrong.
He asked them to use male pronouns for him and was generally perceived by students and staff as a boy, the complaint says.
Drew used stalls in the boys' restrooms with the other boys until on or around Sept. 22, 2015, when he was pulled out of class to meet with three guidance counselors.
The guidance counselors told him someone had anonymously reported that he was using the boys’ restroom. He was instructed to use a gender-neutral restroom from that point forward.
He stopped using the boys' restroom to avoid getting in trouble but doing so has had a negative emotional and social impact on him, the complaint says.
The complaint says refusing him access to the boys' bathroom has branded him as unfit to share the communal restrooms with other boys because he is transgender.
Drew said there are half a dozen boys' bathrooms at school but only two or three gender neutral bathrooms, which are located in inconvenient areas.
The complaint says Drew felt humiliated having to talk halfway across the school passing several boys' restrooms to the gender-neutral bathroom and would often limit his liquid intake to avoid using the restroom.
The complaint says rather than treat Drew equally and in all material respects like a boy, he is singled out as different from the other boys at the school, which interferes with treatment for his gender dysphoria.
"They have singled me out as different," Drew said. "They have told the entire school body that it is OK to treat me as if I'm different, just because I'm trans."
Drew said he has a simple request -- to be treated like all other boys at school.
The complaint said he is bringing the suit against the school board and requesting to use the boys' restroom so he can focus on school.
"I would also like to send a message to the rest of my school and to the school district that discrimination is not OK," Drew said at a press conference Wednesday.
He is seeking a declaratory judgment that his exclusion from the boys’ restroom violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.
He is also seeking preliminary and permanent injunctive relief enjoining defendants from denying him equal access to the boys’ restroom, and nominal damages against the school board only for the violation of Drew’s rights under the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Title IX.
The St. Johns County School District released a statement about the lawsuit:
We disagree with the plaintiff’s interpretation of the law,” Superintendent Tim Forson said. “Beyond that it would 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.”
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