Florida court upholds bar on transgender students using gender affirming restrooms News
© WikiMedia (Phil Roeder)
Florida court upholds bar on transgender students using gender affirming restrooms

The US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit Friday reversed a lower court’s decision that a school board policy which prevents transgender students from using the bathroom that corresponds with the gender they identify with is unconstitutional.

The court found that the policy of theSt. Johns County School Board, which separates school bathrooms based on biological sex, did not violate the Equal Protection Clause and Title IX, contrary to previous rulings by lower courts.

Drew Adams, who brought the claim, challenged the school board’s policy on the basis that it discriminated against transgender students by prohibited them from accessing the bathroom which reflects their gender identity. Adams, who identifies as male, was prohibited from using the male bathrooms and was informed by the school that he had to use either the communal female bathrooms or the single-stall, sex-neutral bathrooms.

The court ruled that policy was not discriminatory and based on the lawful recognition of the biological differences between sexes allowing the separation of bathrooms and other living facilities. This is expressly permitted by Title IX.

Writing for the majority, Republican-appointed Barbara Lagoa found that the policy had no “disparate impact” on transgender students and was based on an “important governmental objective” as:

The School Board’s bathroom is clearly related to…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…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.

In a dissenting judgement, Democrat-appointed Jill Prior was critical of the majority’s reasoning, finding that the case “tells the story of a hauntingly familiar harm.” Adams was “forced to endure a stigmatizing and humiliating walk to shame” to use the gender neutral bathroom by a policy that “discriminates against transgender students by depriving them of a benefit that is provided to all cisgender students.” Prior went on to write that whilst the law recognizes a privacy interest of separating bathroom facilities by sex, “where exclusion implies inferiority, as it does here, principles of equality prevail.”

In reaction to the judgement, the Biden administration has urged the court to strike down the school’s policy.

It is expected that the Supreme Court will take up the issue.