United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Jacksonville Division
DREW ADAMS, a minor, by and through his next friend and mother, Erica Adams Kasper, Plaintiff,
THE SCHOOL BOARD OF ST. JOHNS COUNTY, FLORIDA, Defendant.
FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
TIMOTHY J. CORRIGAN, JUDGE.
parents of St. Johns County, along with teachers and
administrators of the St. Johns County School District, have
a solemn obligation to guard the well-being of the children
in their charge. As recent events from around the country
have tragically demonstrated, this is a very challenging job.
Recognizing the difficulty of this task and that local school
boards, answerable to the citizens of their community, are
best situated to set school policy, federal courts are
reluctant to interfere. Nevertheless, the federal court also
has a solemn obligation: to uphold the Constitution and laws
of the United States. That is why federal courts around the
country have recognized the right of transgender students to
use the bathroom matching their gender identity.
Adams is a rising senior at Allen D. Nease High School. He is
transgender, meaning he “consistently, persistently,
and insistently” identifies as a boy, a gender that is
different than the sex he was assigned at birth (female)
trial, Adams testified: “I am a boy and I know that
with every fiber of my being.” However, when the principal
of Nease was asked whether she considered Adams to be a boy,
she replied, “I do not.” That's what this case is
about. Everyone agrees that boys should use the boys'
restroom at Nease and that girls should use the girls'
restroom. The parties disagree over whether Drew Adams is a
only answer that question with the evidence given to me at
trial. Drew Adams says he is a boy and has undergone
extensive surgery to conform his body to his gender identity;
medical science says he is a boy; the State of Florida says
so (both Adams' Florida birth certificate and Florida
driver's license say he is a male); and the Florida High
School Athletic Association says so. Other than at his
school, Adams uses the mens' bathroom wherever he goes,
including in this federal courthouse during trial. Even the
St. Johns County School Board regards Adams as a boy in every
way, except for which bathroom he can use.
confronted with something affecting our children that is new,
outside of our experience, and contrary to gender norms we
thought we understood, it is natural that parents want to
protect their children. But the evidence is that Drew Adams
poses no threat to the privacy or safety of any of his fellow
students. Rather, Drew Adams is just like every other student
at Nease High School, a teenager coming of age in a
complicated, uncertain and changing world. When it comes to
his use of the bathroom, the law requires that he be treated
like any other boy.
Court recognizes that some will disagree with this decision,
for religious and other reasons. I respect their point of
view. However, as a judge, my job is to determine what the
law requires and apply it faithfully to the facts. I have
done that to the best of my ability.
his next friend and mother, plaintiff Drew Adams, a minor,
filed suit in June 2017 (when he was a rising junior at
Nease) under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that the School
District violated his rights under the Equal Protection
Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States
Constitution, U.S. Const. amend. XIV, § 2, and Title IX,
20 U.S.C. § 1681, by refusing to let him use the
boys' bathroom at school. See Doc. 1 (and as
amended, Doc. 60). Soon thereafter, he filed a motion for
preliminary injunction seeking to enjoin the School Board
(the School District's governing body) from continuing
its policy during the pendency of the case. Although the
Court denied his motion, it set an expedited schedule so the
matter could quickly be brought to trial. See
Docs. 50, 57 (Order and hearing transcript). The Court held a
three day non-jury trial on December 11, 12, and 13, 2017,
hearing testimony from ten witnesses and admitting numerous
exhibits. Two witnesses were unable to appear live
and the Court agreed to accept their videotaped deposition
testimony and a declaration from one. The parties also stipulated
to certain facts that are deemed admitted. A month after the
trial (and while school was out of session), the undersigned
toured Nease High School with the school principal and
counsel for both sides, visiting every restroom on campus.
Thereafter, the parties submitted proposed findings of fact
and conclusions of law and supplemental briefs addressing the
School Board's bathroom policy. See Docs. 172,
173-1,  174, 175. The Court heard closing
arguments on February 16, 2018. Doc. 184. While the Court has
adopted portions of each party's submission, the
Court's findings of fact and conclusions of law are its
own. Several pending motions were carried with the case, and
those rulings are incorporated herein.
Findings of Fact
Defining Transgender/Gender Identity/Sex Assigned at
explained by Dr. Diane Ehrensaft, a developmental and
clinical psychologist who studies and specializes in treating
transgender children and adolescents, there are a number of
components that determine a person's gender: external
genitalia, internal sex organs, chromosomal sex, gonadal sex,
fetal hormonal sex, hypothalamic sex, pubertal hormonal sex,
neurological sex, and gender identity and role. Doc. 166, Ct.
Ex. 3 at ¶ 20. Among these markers, external genitalia,
the most physically obvious one, has historically been used
to determine gender for purposes of recording a birth as male
or female. Id. at ¶ 19. In most people, all the
markers, including external genitalia, lead to a singular
conclusion that an individual is either a male or a female.
Doc. 166, Ct. Ex. 3 at ¶ 19. Sometimes, though, they are
not congruent, with some indicators suggesting the individual
is female, and others male. Id. at ¶ 20. In
this situation, neurological sex and related gender identity
are the most important and determinative factors.
Medical Amici explain that “‘[g]ender
identity' refers to a person's internal sense of
being male, female, or another gender.” Doc. 119, Ex. A
at 6. A transgender individual is someone who
“‘consistently, persistently, and
insistently' identifies as a gender different than the
sex they were assigned at birth.” Id. at 7. A
2016 publication estimated that 1.4 million transgender
adults are living in the United States, 0.6 percent of the
adult population. Id. at 4. “Gender identity
is distinct from and does not predict sexual orientation;
transgender people, like cisgender [non-transgender] people,
may identify as heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual, or
asexual.” Id. at 4-5.
transgender individuals are diagnosed with gender dysphoria,
a condition that is characterized by debilitating distress
and anxiety resulting from the incongruence between an
individual's gender identity and birth-assigned
sex.” Id. at 7. Gender dysphoria is recognized
by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
Id. at 8. According to the Medical Amici, the World
Professional Association for Transgender Health
(“WPATH”) has established the accepted standard
of care for transgender persons suffering from gender
dysphoria, and it “includes assessment, counseling,
and, as appropriate, social transition, puberty-blocking drug
treatment, hormone therapy, and surgical interventions to
bring the body into alignment with one's gender
identity.” Id. at 10-11.
transition “typically includes publicly identifying
oneself as that gender; adopting a new name; using different
pronouns; grooming and dressing in a manner typically
associated with one's gender identity”
(Id. at 11); changing sports teams to be consistent
with one's gender identity (Doc. 166, Ct. Ex. 2 at Tr.
23); “and using restrooms and other single-sex
facilities consistent with that identity.” Doc. 119,
Ex. A at 11. Transgender students typically seek privacy and
discreteness in restroom use and try to avoid exposing any
parts of their genitalia that would reveal sex
characteristics inconsistent with their gender identity. Doc.
166, Ct. Ex. 3 at ¶ 49. The Pediatric Endocrine Society
states that not allowing students to use the restroom
matching their gender identity promotes further
discrimination and segregation of a group that already faces
discrimination and safety concerns. Doc. 151, Pl. Ex. 47.
Endocrine Society Clinical Practice Guideline considers the
standard of care for some adults and adolescents with gender
dysphoria or who seek gender affirmance to include hormone
treatment which, for a transgender male, will alter the
appearance of the genitals, suppress menstruation, and
produce secondary sex characteristics such as increased
muscle mass, increased body hair on the face, chest, and
abdomen, and a deepening of the voice. Doc. 151, Pl. Ex. 30
at 18-19. Surgical interventions (including a double
mastectomy and chest reconstruction for transgender men
(sometimes referred to as “top surgery”) and/or
genital surgery) may be appropriate and medically necessary
for some patients, but may be delayed until the age of legal
majority because, unlike the other treatments, they are
largely irreversible. Id. at 26; Doc. 119, Ex. A at
13. Before the medical profession gained its current
understanding of gender identity, some practices involved
attempts to force transgender people to live in accordance
with the sex assigned to them at birth, but those attempts
failed and caused significant harm. Doc. 119, Ex. A at 5.
Adams was born in 2000, he had the external genitalia of a
female, and indeed, his parents had been told they were
expecting a girl. Doc. 160-1 at Tr. 84; Doc. 161 at Tr. 31.
His Florida birth certificate recorded his sex as
“female.” Doc. 160-1 at Tr. 83; Doc. 170, Def.
Ex. 145 (under seal). From a young age, Adams' parents
noticed that Adams rejected what they describe as
stereotypically feminine behaviors and attributes, such as
playing with dolls, favoring the color pink, or wearing
dresses; instead, Adams preferred playing with toy race cars
and dinosaurs, and going to the science center. Doc. 160-1 at
Tr. 217-18; Doc. 161 at Tr. 87. Nonetheless, Adams was a
happy and smart child. Doc. 160-1 at Tr. 81, 189. In middle
school, however, as Adams started going through puberty, he
“hated” the developing feminine parts of his
body. Id. at Tr. 89-91. Adams began to show signs of
depression and anxiety and in early 2015, Adams' parents
brought him to a mental health therapist as well as a
psychiatrist. Id. at Tr. 89-91, 215-16.
end of eighth grade, a few months after he began his therapy,
Adams realized that he was transgender and came out to his
parents, who already suspected as much. Doc. 160-1 at Tr.
219; Doc. 161 at Tr. 87. Adams and his parents met with
Adams' therapist seeking guidance. Doc. 160-1 at Tr.
220-21. Adams' therapist confirmed that Adams was
transgender, and Adams began implementing the social
transition to present as a male, which included cutting
Adams' hair short, wearing a chest binder (a garment
which flattens the breast tissue) and masculine clothing,
asking people to switch to male pronouns when referring to
him, and using the men's restrooms when in
public. Id. at Tr. 95, 101. When Adams
uses the men's restroom, he walks in and enters a stall,
closes and locks the door, relieves himself, exits the stall,
washes his hands, and leaves. Id. at Tr. 202.
psychologist determined he met the criteria for gender
dysphoria, and in May 2016, she supported his request to
begin treatment with an endocrinologist for his medical
transition, which included taking birth control to halt
menstruation and testosterone to make his body more
masculine. Id. at Tr. 98-100; Doc. 151, Pl. Ex. 134.
In May 2017, Adams had a double mastectomy. Doc. 160-1 at
has also worked on the legal transition. The Florida
Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles follows the
recommendations of the WPATH in establishing procedures for
changing gender on Florida driver's licenses, requiring a
statement from a medical provider that the applicant is
undergoing clinical treatment for gender transition.
See Doc. 147, Ex. A (Florida Driver License
Operations Manual) at ¶ 07.2b. Within certain
guidelines, the Florida Department of Health, Office of Vital
Statistics accepts supporting authenticated medical
documentation to amend the sex designation on birth
certificates. S e e Fla. Admin. Code Ann. R.
64V-1.003(2) (2004). Adams followed these procedures, and his
Florida driver's license and Florida birth certificate
both now record his gender as “Male” or
“M.” See Doc. 151, Pl. Ex. 3; Doc. 169,
Pl. Ex. 4 (under seal).
to Adams' mother, coming out brought on “an
absolutely remarkable” change in Adams. Doc. 160-1 at
Tr. 220. “He went from this quiet, withdrawn, depressed
kid to this very outgoing, positive, bright, confident kid.
It was a complete 180.” Id. As Adams
testified, with every step of the transition, he feels even
better: “I don't hate myself anymore. And I
don't hate the person I am. I don't hate my body
anymore. There are some parts I don't like, of course,
but I don't look at myself and think all those negative
thoughts anymore.” Id. at Tr. 106. Adams only
sees his therapist now on an as-needed basis, less often than
he previously did, and he is not taking any medications for
anxiety or depression. Id. at Tr. 131, 188.
is excelling academically in high school, is enrolled in the
International Baccalaureate program, and is a member of the
National Honor Society. Id. at Tr. 214-15; Doc. 162
at Tr. 129-130. He spends his summers volunteering at area
hospitals and is involved in a number of organizations that
serve the LGBT community. Doc. 160-1 at Tr. 124-25.
Adams plans to attend college upon graduation and aspires to
become a doctor. Id. at Tr. 81.
The St. Johns County School District and Its Transgender and
Johns County School Board is responsible for providing
“proper attention to [the] health, safety, and other
matters relating to the welfare of students.” Fla.
Stat. § 1001.42(8)(a). The St. Johns County School
District educates approximately 40, 000 students in 36
different schools, serving grades K-12. Doc. 161 at Tr.
254-55. An enrollment packet is assembled for each new
student. Id. at Tr. 229. Part of that packet is the
School District's student information/entry form, which
includes a box to check whether the student's gender is
“male” or “female, ” as does the Home
Language Survey form. Doc. 170, Def. Ex. 142 & 143 (under
seal). The paperwork includes a state health form, which has
a space to indicate a student's “sex.” Doc.
170, Def. Ex. 144 (under seal). The enrollment packet also
includes a copy of a student's birth certificate, which,
for Florida, lists the student's “sex.” Doc.
170, Def. Ex. 145 (under seal). The School District uses
these documents to record a student's gender in its
files. Doc. 161 at Tr. 205. If a student later presents a
document, such as a birth certificate or driver's
license, which lists a different gender, the original
enrollment documents control. The School District will not
change the official school records. Doc. 162 at Tr. 12-13.
But, if a transgender student initially enrolls with
documents listing the gender that matches the student's
gender identity, the School District will accept the student
as being of that gender. Id. at Tr. 35. The School
Board is aware of approximately sixteen transgender students
in its schools, some of whom would like to use restrooms
which match their gender identity. Id. at Tr.
106-07. The principal at Nease is aware of five transgender
students at Nease, including Adams. Id. at Tr. 136.
to the School Board Attorney, and as affirmed by the School
Board Chair, for as long as anyone can remember, the
unwritten School District bathroom policy was that boys will
use the boys' restrooms at school and girls will use the
girls' restrooms at school, using those terms as
traditionally defined based on biological traits.
Id. at Tr. 45-46; Doc. 184 at Tr. 11-12. As a
long-time school official explained, students of one
“biological sex” have never been permitted to use
the restroom of the opposite “biological sex.”
Doc. 161 at Tr. 149-50. The school bathroom policy has been
enforced through the student code of conduct, and a student
could be subject to discipline for failing to abide by the
bathroom policy. Id. at Tr. 227-28; Doc. 162 at Tr.
17-18; Doc. 152, Def. Ex. 65 (St. Johns County School
District student codes of conduct, 2015-2018).
in 2012, the (now retired) Director of Student Services
worked with LGBTQ students, attended and sent staff to LGBTQ
conferences, and researched school policies in other school
districts in Florida and elsewhere to educate herself and the
School District about emerging LGBTQ issues. Doc. 161 at Tr.
146-47. She formed a task force which consulted with district
administrators, principals, attorneys, guidance counselors,
mental health professionals, parents, students, members of
the public, and LGBTQ groups in St. Johns County and
elsewhere. Id. at Tr. 150-52, 158-59, 161-62,
174-80. The result was a set of Best Practices Guidelines
adopted by the School Superintendent's Executive Cabinet
and introduced to school administrators in September 2015.
Id. at Tr. 242-45.
Best Practices Guidelines were formed with the
community's values in mind (described by the School Board
Attorney as trending conservative), and they provide guidance
to faculty and staff to address numerous issues related to
LGBTQ students. Doc. 162 at Tr. 32-33, 86. Under the Best
Practices Guidelines, upon request by a student or parent,
students should be addressed with the name and gender
pronouns corresponding with the student's consistently
asserted gender identity; school records will be updated upon
receipt of a court order to reflect a transgender
student's name and gender; unofficial school records will
use a transgender student's chosen name even without a
court order; transgender students are allowed to dress in
accordance with their gender identity; students are permitted
to publicly express their gender identity; and the school
will not unnecessarily disclose a student's transgender
status to others. Doc. 152, Def. Ex. 33; Doc. 151, Pl. Ex.
138 at Request for Admission # 51. The Best Practices
Guidelines also provide that “[t]ransgender students
will be given access to a gender-neutral restroom and will
not be required to use the restroom corresponding to their
biological sex.” Doc. 152, Def. Ex. 33 at 1. The
document further states that “[t]here is no specific
federal or Florida state law that requires schools to allow a
transgender student access to the restroom corresponding to
their consistently asserted transgender identity.”
formulating their recommendations for the Best Practices
Guidelines, the LBGTQ task force was aware that some other
school districts, including in Florida, have adopted policies
permitting transgender students to use the restrooms
consistent with their gender identity. Doc. 161 at Tr.
215-16. However, the task force did not recommend that
alternative for the St. Johns County School District due at
least in part to concerns about how to handle gender-fluid
students (those whose gender changes between male and female)
or those pretending to be gender-fluid, although the task
force had not heard of any such incidents. Id.
at Tr. 215-17.
to the School Board Attorney, the gender-neutral bathroom
option was added to the Guidelines and is now part of the
school policy as a reasonable alternative for transgender
students so they would not be required to use the bathroom of
their sex assigned at birth. Doc. 162 at Tr. 61-62. The
School Board's position is that this approach reconciles
the interests of transgender students without violating the
School Board policy of having separate bathrooms for boys and
girls. Id. at Tr. 62. The retired Director of
Student Services also explained that the Best Practices
Guidelines accommodate gender-fluid students while protecting
against the possibility that students might claim to be
gender-fluid to gain access to the bathroom of the opposite
sex. Doc. 161 at Tr. 216.
months after the School District implemented the Best
Practices Guidelines, the United States Departments of
Education and Justice issued guidance (“the 2016
Guidance”) that the term “sex” under Title
IX included gender identity. Doc. 152, Def. Ex. 84. The 2016
Guidance directed that schools that provide sex-segregated
restrooms, locker rooms and shower facilities must allow
transgender students to use those facilities consistent with
their gender identity. Id. at 3. In response, the
School District issued a statement through its Superintendent
that it disagreed with that guidance and intended to continue
following its long-standing bathroom policy as supplemented
by the Best Practices Guidelines, which it believed to be
lawful and provided a reasonable accommodation. Doc. 162 at
Tr. 75-78. In February 2017, the Departments of Education and
Justice withdrew the 2016 Guidance, explaining that it had
not undergone any formal public process and had been issued
without extensive legal analysis or explanation as to how it
was consistent with Title IX. Doc. 152, Def. Ex. 237.
both the long-standing unwritten School Board bathroom policy
and the Best Practices Guidelines, the current policy in St.
Johns County public schools for grades four and up is that
“biological boys” may only use boys'
restrooms or gender-neutral single-stall bathrooms and
“biological girls” may only use girls'
restrooms or gender-neutral single-stall bathrooms, with the
terms “biological boys” and “biological
girls” being defined by the student's sex assigned
at birth, as reflected on the student's enrollment
documents. Doc. 162 at Tr. 45-46, 62, 71; Doc. 161
at Tr. 248. The School Board Attorney explained that the
bathroom policy comports with the Board's overall
responsibility for student welfare, which, in the case of
bathrooms, principally involves concerns for privacy and
safety. Doc. 162 at Tr. 110-11.
regard to privacy, the School Board seeks to preserve the
privacy of individuals using the restroom facilities, but
admits that the bathroom stall doors provide privacy for
anyone inside a stall. Id. at Tr. 114. The retired
Director of Student Services who led the LGBTQ task force
explained the privacy concerns:
[W]hen a girl goes into a girls' restroom, she feels that
she has the privacy to change clothes in there, to go to the
bathroom, to refresh her makeup. They talk to other girls.
It's kind of like a guy on the golf course; the women
talk in the restrooms, you know. And to have someone else in
there that may or may not make them feel uncomfortable, I
think that's an issue we have to look at. It's not
just for the transgender child, but it's for the other.
Doc. 161 at Tr. 213. The School District's Deputy
Superintendent for Operations raised similar points, saying a
student may want privacy to undress or clean up a stain on
her clothing. Id. at Tr. 248. The School Board
Attorney also explained that allowing a transgender student
to use a restroom that conformed to his or her gender
identity could create opportunities for students “with
untoward intentions to do things they ought not to do,
” although the School Board has never received any
complaints of untoward behavior involving a transgender
student. Doc. 162 at Tr. 112-13.
the safety aspect, the School Board seeks to assure that
members of the opposite sex are not in an unsupervised
bathroom together, citing as an example the risks of danger
posed to a female freshman student who might find herself
alone in the restroom with an 18-year old male student.
Id. at Tr. 69, 111, 115. A related concern raised by
the retired Director of Student Services was that under a
relaxed policy, a student-a football player for example-could
pose as being gender-fluid for the purpose of gaining access
to the girls' restroom, but the school would have no way
to know whether his belief that he is gender-fluid is
sincere. Doc. 161 at Tr. 213. However, the task force's
research did not reveal any actual situations where a problem
like that occurred. Id. at Tr. 213.
retired Director of Student Services also expressed concern
for the safety of transgender students, worrying that they
might be bullied or assaulted or ridiculed by other students
if they are in the bathroom that matches their gender
identity. Id. at Tr. 217. While the School
Board's code of conduct would address any violations, by
keeping boys and girls separate in the unsupervised
restrooms, the School Board seeks to minimize the opportunity
for any such violation to occur. Doc. 162 at Tr. 115.
However, the School Board is not aware of any bullying
violations involving a transgender student in any St. Johns
County School District restroom, id. at Tr. 115, nor
did the task force hear of any such incidents in other school
districts involving transgender students using the restroom
that aligned with their gender identity. Doc. 161 at Tr.
219-20. Moreover, the retired Director of Student Services
acknowledged that for a transgender student who has made the
social transition and whose appearance is consistent with his
or her gender identity (for example, a transgender girl whose
hair is long, whose breasts are enhanced, who is wearing
lipstick), there may be safety, security, and privacy
concerns if that student used the restroom that is consistent
with the sex the student was assigned at birth; thus, she
thought it would be preferable if such a student used a
gender-neutral single-stall bathroom. Id. at Tr.
if a transgender student enrolled in the St. Johns County
School District having already changed their legal documents
to reflect their gender identity, the student's school
records would reflect that gender as well. Doc. 162 at Tr.
35. The school district has no process to determine if a
student is transgender. Doc. 161 at Tr. 235. As the School
Board Attorney said, “[t]he district does not play
bathroom cop, ” and it accepts the information on the
enrollment documents at face value. Doc. 162 at Tr. 53. Thus,
unless there was a complaint, a transgender student could use
the restroom matching his or her gender identity until he or
she graduated and the school would be none the wiser.
Id. at Tr. 35-36, 53. The School Board Attorney
testified that he thought that scenario would be a rare
occurrence and, if it became a problem, the School Board
could re-examine the practice of using self-identifying
enrollment documents to determine gender. Id.
at Tr. 54-55. However, he agreed that at this point, the
School District would have no occasion to question a student
who used a restroom consistent with the gender recorded on
the student's enrollment documents. Id. at Tr.
Nease campus is spread over several buildings. There are four
sets of multi-stall, sex-segregated bathrooms available
during class time to the school's 2, 450 students.
Id. at Tr. 131-32. An additional set is available in
the locker rooms for use by students while taking physical
education classes. Id. at Tr. 131. Discounting the
locker room, there are a total of ten bathroom stalls
available in the boys' restrooms on the Nease campus.
Id. at Tr. 133. All of the boys' restrooms have
a set of urinals and stalls with doors. The urinals in the
boys' restrooms are not divided by partitions, although a
school official said perhaps they could be. Id. at
Tr. 32. The campus additionally has eleven gender-neutral
single-stall bathrooms in various locations which are open to
any student or staff member. Id. at Tr. 134. A
multi-stall boys' restroom and a multi-stall girls'
restroom are accessible to students in the cafeteria area,
but there is not a gender-neutral bathroom in that area and
during certain lunch periods, students who wish to use a
gender-neutral bathroom must ask permission to leave the
area. Doc. 160-1 at Tr. 279-80.
undersigned visited Nease and toured all of the bathrooms on
campus. While they were clean, most of the multi-stall
single-sex restroom facilities were dated and there were not
nearly enough bathrooms for boys or girls considering the
number of students at Nease. The school principal said there
are often lines to use those bathrooms. The gender-neutral
bathrooms were generally more modern than the multi-stall
single-sex bathrooms. Some of Nease's classrooms are in
portable buildings. There are no gender-neutral bathrooms or
faculty bathrooms near those classrooms, and the multi-stall
single-sex bathrooms there have very few stalls. The
principal said that faculty assigned to teach in the portable
classrooms sometimes use the multi-stall single-sex
bathrooms. The undersigned observed that the boys' locker
room is an open space with no room for privacy while
changing. There is a bathroom available in the coach's
office, but the principal said it is not available to use for
changing. The boys' locker room shower is an open space
with several shower heads and no curtains or dividers. The
showering space is visible to other areas of the locker room.
Adams' Experience with the Bathroom Policy at Nease High
enrollment documents show that Adams enrolled in the St.
Johns County School District as a female entering the fourth
grade at PV/PV Rawlings Elementary in 2010. See Doc.
170, Def. Ex. 142, 143, 144 (under seal). During the summer
of 2015, before Adams began high school at Nease, Adams'
mother informed the student services department that Adams
was transitioning and would be attending high school as a
boy. Doc. 160-1 at Tr. 251-52. When Adams began school in
August, he presented as a boy and used the boys' restroom
when needed without incident. Id. at Tr. 253. One
day in September approximately six weeks after school
started, Adams was called out from his classroom and told by
his guidance counselor that someone had complained about him
using the boys' restroom and that, going forward, he
could use the gender-neutral bathroom in the school office.
Id. at Tr. 114-15, 253. Adams was also advised that
he could use the girls' restroom, something he found
insulting. Id. at Tr. 117-18. It was not a boy or a
boy's parents who had complained. Rather, it was two
unidentified female students who reported that they had seen
Adams entering the boys' restroom. Doc. 162 at Tr. 16-17.
Adams, the school's refusal to let him use the boys'
restroom meant that the school did not see him as a boy, and
refused to accept who he was. Doc. 160-1 at Tr. 116. As Adams
testified, “I was living in every aspect of my life as
a boy and now they're taking that away from me.”
Id. Adams said he was confused, shocked, and angered
by the school's reaction. Id. at Tr. 115-16. The
school agreed to provide gender-neutral restrooms which Adams
has used as necessary. Id. at Tr. 172-73. Adams
would be subject to disciplinary action if he used the
boys' bathroom. Doc. 162 at Tr. 17-18. Over the course of
Adams' freshman and sophomore years, Adams' mother
met with various school and District personnel, sent them
letters and emails, and pursued a complaint with the U.S.
Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights; by the
end of his sophomore year when those efforts had not resulted
in any change to the school bathroom policy, Adams, through
his mother, filed this lawsuit. Doc. 160-1 at Tr. 254-60.
some of Adams' classes during his junior year, the
gender-neutral bathrooms were considerably further away than
the boys' restrooms. Id. at Tr. 117, 119, 122-24,
176-79. Adams monitors his fluid intake to minimize his need
to use the restroom and he now uses the school bathroom only
once or twice a day. Id. at Tr. 118-19, 172. Adams
thinks ahead about where his classes are and which bathrooms
he can access, worrying he will miss valuable class time if a
gender-neutral bathroom is not nearby. Id.
at Tr. 118-19. Adams' has not registered for any physical
education classes while at Nease (students enrolled in the
International Baccalaureate program are not required to take
physical education classes), and Adams did not testify about
the school policy with respect to the locker rooms, which are
only available to students taking physical education classes.
Doc. 171, Def. Ex. 42 & 43 (under seal); Doc. 162 at Tr.
testified that he feels alienated and humiliated, and it
causes him anxiety and depression to walk past the boys'
restroom on his way to a gender-neutral bathroom, knowing
every other boy is permitted to use it but him. Doc. 160-1 at
Tr. 116-17. Adams thinks it also sends a message to other
students who see him use a “special bathroom”
that he is different, when all he wants is to fit in.
Id. at Tr. 205.
were no reported instances of privacy breaches during the
time Adams used the boys' restroom at Nease. Although no
one other than the two female students ever complained about
Adams' use of the boys' bathroom at Nease, the
parties stipulated that certain parents and students in the
School District object to a policy or practice that would
allow students to use bathrooms in accordance with their
gender identity as opposed to their sex assigned at birth,
because they believe such a practice would violate the bodily
privacy rights of students and raises privacy, safety and
welfare concerns. Doc. 116 at § I, ¶ 3 (p. 22). The
School District has agreed to treat Adams as a boy in all
other respects, but its position is that Adams'
enrollment documents and official school records identify him
as a female, and he has not presented any evidence that he is
a “biological male.” Doc. 161 at Tr. 229-36, 253;
Doc. 162 at Tr. 12-13, 35-36; Doc. 173-1 at ¶¶
42-43. The School District maintains that Adams is welcome to
use the gender-neutral bathrooms or the girls'
bathroom. Doc. 161 at Tr. 250-51. But he cannot
use the boys' bathroom.
Schools With Policies Permitting Transgender Students To Use
The Bathroom that Aligns With Their Gender Identity
Court heard testimony from three school administrators
familiar with other schools that have adopted the transgender
bathroom policy that Adams is advocating. Broward
County, also in Florida, has a public school policy that
permits students to use gender-neutral restrooms as well as
the restrooms that match their gender identity. Doc. 151, Pl.
Ex. 66 at 40-41. Unlike St. Johns County, Broward County also
has a human rights ordinance that prohibits discrimination
based on gender identity. Id. at 16. Michaelle
Valbrun-Pope, the Executive Director of the Student Support
Initiatives for Broward County Public Schools (the sixth
largest school district in the nation), testified that she is
aware of nine other Florida school districts that have
implemented some of their policies with regard to transgender
students. Doc. 161 at Tr. 65-66. Valbrun-Pope
testified that Broward County Schools' transgender
bathroom policy, which has been in effect for about five
years, has not caused any issues related to safety or
privacy. Id. at Tr. 64-65. She testified that she
has never heard of a transgender student exposing himself or
herself in the restroom and that doing so would be
inconsistent with aligning themselves with their gender
identity and being accepted as that gender. Id. at
Kefford, a principal at a high school in Broward County who
also works district-wide answering questions about the
district's LGBTQ policies, has worked with about a dozen
transgender students over the years, and her high school
presently has two transgender students out of a population of
about 2, 600. I d . at 106, 109-110, 117. Once a
transgender student comes forward to identify herself or
himself, an adult staff member meets with the student to
discuss a variety of issues, including whether the student
wants to be called a different name, whether the
student's family is aware of the situation, whether a
referral to any outside resources would be helpful to the
student or the family, whether the student has disclosed his
or her gender identity to others, whether the student is
engaged in extracurricular activities or sports where support
may be needed, and what restroom the student wants to use.
Id. at Tr. 111-12; Doc. 151, Pl. Ex. 66 at 49-51.
Broward County Public Schools do not require any legal
documentation such as a birth certificate to permit students
to be treated consistent with their gender identity, and
students need only identify themselves as transgender to have
access to the restroom that corresponds to the gender
identity they assert at school. Doc. 151, Pl. Ex. 66 at
testified that no students or parents have complained about
transgender students in the bathrooms, although in the
training sessions she conducts within the school district,
she has encountered other adults who do not agree with the
district's transgender policies. Doc. 161 at Tr. 106,
118-19. Based on her experience in meeting with these adults,
Kefford's opinion is that “people are afraid of
what they don't understand . . . [and] a lot of that fear
[is because] they haven't experienced it, they don't
know enough about it, and the first thing that comes to mind
is this person wants to go into this bathroom for some other
purpose. That's not the reality. The reality is this
child . . . just want[s] to be accepted” as a member of
the gender with which they identify. Id. at Tr.
also testified that there has never been a problem involving
a transgender student in the bathroom, and any problem that
did arise would be dealt with in accordance with the
school's disciplinary guidelines. Id. at Tr.
106-07. Kefford said that any child who was uncomfortable
with the policy or wanted additional privacy beyond that
already afforded by a bathroom stall would have the option of
using a gender-neutral single-stall bathroom. Id. at
Tr. 120. She also testified that some transgender students
who are in the early stages of their transition prefer to use
a gender-neutral bathroom instead of the bathroom that
matches their gender identity. Id. at Tr. 111-12.
Kefford has never heard of a transgender student (or adult)
going into a restroom for the purpose of engaging in any
inappropriate predatory behavior and has never heard of a
cisgender student pretending to be transgender to gain access
to a bathroom opposite of their true gender identity.
Id. at Tr. 107, 119.
Thomas Aberli, a principal with the Jefferson County Public
Schools in Kentucky testified about his experience at a high
school during the time that it adopted a policy to permit
transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that
aligned with their gender identity. Doc. 160-1 at Tr. 22-23.
That high school does not have any gender-neutral bathrooms
but does have one single-stall girls' bathroom and one
single-stall boys' bathroom in the front office.
Id. at Tr. 25. Aberli testified that the school had
no problems implementing the policy, which was occasioned by
a student who transitioned during the school year.
Id. at Tr. 26-27. Aberli explained that this was his
first encounter with a transgender student and he had a steep
learning curve but ultimately concluded that “being
transgender was a real thing that the school ...