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Transgender Student Sues St. Johns School District For Discrimination

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Lamda Legal
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Lamda Legal Defense and Education Fund

Updated 6/29 at 3:42 p.m. 

A federal lawsuit filed this week by a 16-year old transgender student accuses the St. Johns County school system of discrimination.

Drew Adams will be a junior this year at Nease High School in Ponte Vedra.

He was told his freshman year that he would have to use one of the school’s gender-neutral restrooms instead of the boys’ bathroom, even though his mother, Erica Kasper, says that’s what matches his gender identity.

“The fact that he can only use gender neutral restrooms, of which there are only a few on campus, and they’re not always convenient to his class or his schedule,” she said, “creates a level of anxiety and a level of stress and a particularly undue burden on these kids who are just trying to have a normal high school experience.”

Kasper said she thought the issue had been solved when in May 2016 when former President Barack Obama directed schools to let students use the restrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identities.

The administration said the guidelines were derived from the federal Title IX law prohibiting schools and education programs that receive federal funding from discriminating on the basis of sex.

They were revoked by President Donald Trump less than a year later.

For his part, Drew Adams said he was tired of being thought of as somehow less deserving than other students. 

“I think what upsets me the most about the situation,” he said, “is that the school system has made it abundantly clear that I am not worthy of an equal education or equal opportunities. That’s pretty embarrassing, humiliating, isolating.”

Drew and his mom said it was only after the school system failed to change the policy that they decided to take their fight to federal court.

They filed a lawsuit Wednesday alleging the St. Johns County School Board, the superintendent and the principal of Nease High School violated Drew’s constitutional right to equal protection under the 14th Amendment.

It also accuses the school board specifically of violating Title IX.

Their attorney Paul Castillo, with the Lamda Legal Defense and Education Fund, said he will ask a judge for a temporary injunction so that Drew can use the boys’ bathroom when classes start back this fall.

Cyd Hoskinson can be reached at choskinson@wjct.org, 904-358-6351 and on Twitter.com @cydwjctnews

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated with quotes from student Drew Adams and Erica Kasper, and more information about the lawsuit.