Drew Adams v. School Board of St. Johns County Florida

Case: 18-13592 Date Filed: 08/07/2020 Page: 1 of 74 [PUBLISH] IN THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE ELEVENTH CIRCUIT ________________________ No. 18-13592 ________________________ D.C. Docket No. 3:17-cv-00739-TJC-JBT DREW ADAMS, a minor, by and through his next friend and mother, Erica Adams Kasper, Plaintiff - Appellee, versus SCHOOL BOARD OF ST. JOHNS COUNTY, FLORIDA, Defendant - Appellant. ________________________ Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida ________________________ (August 7, 2020) Before WILLIAM PRYOR, Chief Judge, MARTIN and JILL PRYOR, Circuit Judges. MARTIN, Circuit Judge: Drew Adams is a young man and recent graduate of Nease High School in Florida’s St. Johns County School District. Mr. Adams is transgender, meaning Case: 18-13592 Date Filed: 08/07/2020 Page: 2 of 74 when he was born, doctors assessed his sex and wrote “female” on his birth certificate, but today Mr. Adams knows “with every fiber of [his] being” that he is a boy. While Mr. Adams attended Nease High School, school officials considered him a boy in all respects but one: he was forbidden to use the boys’ restroom. Instead, Mr. Adams had the option of using the multi-stall girls’ restrooms, which he found profoundly “insult[ing].” Or he could use a single-stall gender-neutral bathroom, which he found “isolati[ng],” “depress[ing],” “humiliating,” and burdensome. After unsuccessful negotiations with the St. Johns County School District over his bathroom use, Mr. Adams brought suit against the St. Johns County School Board (the “School Board”) through his next friend and mother, Ms. Erica Adams Kasper. He asserted violations of his rights under Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 (“Title IX”), 20 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq., and the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. After a bench trial, the District Court granted him relief on both claims. This case calls upon us to decide whether the St. Johns County School District’s policy barring Mr. Adams from the boys’ restroom squares with the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection and Title IX’s prohibition of sex discrimination. We conclude it does not. We affirm the District Court’s decision on both questions. 2 Case: 18-13592 Date Filed: 08/07/2020 Page: 3 of 74 I. The District Court developed a thorough factual record after a three-day bench trial of Mr. Adams’s claims. See Adams ex rel. Kasper v. Sch. Bd. of St. Johns Cty., 318 F. Supp. 3d 1293, 1298–1310 (M.D. Fla. 2018). We recite those facts here, as necessary. Drew Adams was born in 2000. At birth, doctors examined Mr. Adams and recorded his sex as female. That female designation has vexed Mr. Adams throughout his young life. As Mr. Adams entered puberty, he suffered significant anxiety and depression about his developing body, and he sought the help of a therapist and a psychiatrist. In the eighth grade, after introspection and with the help of therapy, Mr. Adams came to realize he was transgender. He revealed to his parents that he was a boy, not a girl. Together, Mr. Adams and his family met with ...

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