Groups sound off on school’s district bathroom policy

Drew Adams (right), 16, a transgender student at Nease High School with mom Erica Kasper on Wednesday, June 28, 2017 in Jacksonville. (Will Dickey/Florida Times-Union)

Supporters of the Nease High School transgender student who recently filed a federal discrimination suit against the St. Johns County School District for the right to use the boys’ bathroom spoke out at a school board meeting Tuesday.

 

The Lamba Legal organization brought the legal action on behalf of Drew Adams, who is entering his junior year at Nease, on June 28. The lawsuit seeks reversal of the district’s policy, which has required Adams to use gender-neutral, single-occupancy bathrooms since September 2015, shortly after Adams, who was born a girl, began identifying as a male.

“I just ask that they use logic in the use of their (restroom) facilities and let them (students) use the facilities that match their gender identity,” said Andrea DeGeorge, a member of the Indivisible St. Johns organization.

DeGeorge was one of several speakers who addressed school officials at the meeting.

School board member Patrick Canan, who is also a local attorney, said while the board appreciated the public’s comments, the panel couldn’t respond because of the pending litigation.

Indivisible St. Johns has mobilized with other local groups to put pressure on the district to change their gender bathroom policy, as well as bring awareness to the challenges transgender individuals face. Members of some of the other organizations who are supporting Adams’ cause — including LGBT St. Augustine, PFLAG St. Augustine and the Women’s March of St. Augustine — were also at Tuesday’s meeting.

DeGeorge called upon the district to hold a community forum to encourage dialogue around the issue.

Daniel Sostrom, a district parent and president of the local PFLAG chapter, told the board, “I believe this is segregation and it’s just not right.”

Other speakers said they didn’t believe transgender students were more likely of perpetrating a sexual assault in a bathroom than students of any other gender identity.

James Sean Phelan, a 2017 graduate of Ponte Vedra High School, said he had transgender friends and the policy unfairly targeted them.

The lawsuit is based on the claim that Adams’ rights are being infringed upon in violation of the 14th constitutional amendment and a Title IX federal directive that bans sex discrimination in education. Named as defendants in the legal action are the school board, Superintendent Tim Forson and Nease Principal Lisa Kunze.

The school district’s attorney, Frank D. Upchurch III, did not respond to a message left by The Record before press time.

 

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