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Northeast Florida Rep. Urges Scott To Join Suit Against Transgender School Guidelines

Mark Foley
Florida House of Representatives

A Northeast Florida lawmaker who’s running to be Nassau County school superintendent is asking Gov. Rick Scott to sue the federal government over recent transgender guidelines it sent to schools.

State Rep. Janet Adkins (R-Fernandina Beach), who chairs the House K-12 Education Subcommittee until her term is up in November, wants Florida to join 11 other states that sued last month.

The government’s “dear colleague” letter to schools outlined policies already in federal law that protect transgender students’ rights. The Justice Department and Department of Education say gender identity counts as “sex” under Title IX protections put in place to promote gender equality.

Some of the guidelines include:

  • School employees must use gender pronouns consistent with students’ gender identity
  • Schools must allow access to restrooms and locker rooms consistent with students’ gender identity
  • Schools providing housing or overnight accommodations must allow transgender students to stay with others matching their gender identity and must not require them to stay in single-occupancy rooms

Adkins says the examples in the letter amount to creating policy that oversteps the Florida Legislature. 
“Because the level of specificity in this letter not only says what you must do, it says what you cannot do, and what they’re specifying you cannot do is, in my understanding, what some school districts have chosen to create a palatable solution,” she says.

Adkins says she’d want Florida to join the lawsuit regardless of the issue because she believes the letter creates a bad precedent of federal overreach.

Scott’s office responded to Adkins this week, saying only he received her letter.

Regardless of what the governor decides, some Florida superintendents, like Clay County’s Charlie Van Zant, have announced they will not comply with guidelines like allowing transgender students to use bathrooms matching their gender identity. In a message to parents, he said students will be required to use the bathroom matching their gender assignment at birth. 

Meanwhile, Duval County implemented policies consistent with the federal guidelines in 2012. 

Jessica Palombo supervises local news gathering and production, podcasts and web editorial content for WJCT News, ADAPT and Jacksonville Today. She is an award-winning writer and journalist with bylines including NPR, Experience Magazine, and The Gainesville Sun. She has a master’s degree in broadcast and digital journalism from Syracuse University and is an alumna of the University of Florida. A nearly lifelong resident of Jacksonville, she considers herself lucky to be raising her own children in her hometown. Follow Jessica Palombo on Twitter: @JaxJessicaP