U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, Atlanta

Attorneys general from around the U.S. have signaled their support for a transgender high school student suing his Florida school board for discrimination.

Letitia James and Bob Ferguson — attorneys general for New York and Washington, respectively — filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit on behalf of Drew Adams, a student at Nease High School in Ponte Vedra Beach.

Adams, who received gender reassignment surgery in 2015, accused the St. Johns County School Board of violating the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause and Title IX laws by mandating he only use gender-neutral bathrooms while attending school.

Although U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan of the Middle District of Florida ruled against the school board’s bathroom policy for transgender students and ordered Adams to be allowed to use the boys’ restroom, the St. Johns County School Board appealed the decision.

“No student should ever dread going to school for fear of being bullied or discriminated against because of how they identify,” James said in a statement.

“Educational institutions have a responsibility to protect and educate their students — neither of which involve denying students access to the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity,” the statement continued. ”My office will ensure that all students are treated with dignity and respect.”

James and Ferguson’s brief boasted co-signs from 19 other attorneys general — including those from California, Hawaii, New Jersey and the District of Columbia — speaking out on behalf of Adams.

Florida’s Republican Attorney General Ashley Moody was not among the supporters.

Read the brief: 

A member of Adams’ legal team, Tara Borelli with LGBTQ advocacy group Lambda Legal, said the filing is just one in an “extraordinary collection of briefs” filed on behalf of Drew.

Tara Borelli Tara Borelli, Lambda Legal attorney

“We had a really powerful brief filed by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, which talks very powerfully about the stain on this country’s history that is the separation of people from restrooms,” she said. Borelli added medical organizations, including the American Medical Association, as well as businesses such as Apple and eBay, entered amicus briefs supporting Adams.

Figures in South Florida’s LGBTQ community also called on the federal appeals court to uphold Corrigan’s ruling.

“Given that both the American Medical Association and the World Medical Association have ruled that everyone has the right to determine their own gender, it is clear that Johns County School District is on the wrong side of history,” said David Jobin, president and CEO of LGBTQ philanthropy group Our Fund Foundation. “Our transgender brothers and sisters need to have this page turned and have our leaders make decisions based on universal fairness rather than the individual and selective morality of others.”

Attorneys for the St. Johns County School Board with Tallahassee law firm Sniffen & Spellman did not reply to requests for comment by press time. The school board’s community relations staff, Christina Langston and Danielle Cook, also did not respond by deadline.

Borelli called her client “a very brave young man” in light of the continued litigation surrounding him.

“It would be daunting for any adult to have to take the stand at trial and testify, but Drew did it as an adolescent and it speaks to his incredible character that he carried himself through this process with such dignity,” she said. “I think he remains hopeful that ultimately equality will carry the day.”

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