Attorney General James Fights Discrimination Against Transgender Students in Schools

AG James Leads Coalition in Filing Amicus Brief Challenging
Florida School District Policy Prohibiting Transgender Students
From Using Bathrooms Corresponding With Gender Identity

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James today continued her fight against transgender discrimination in schools. Co-leading a multi-state coalition of 23 attorneys general, Attorney General James filed an amicus brief in the case Adams v. School Board of St. Johns County, in support of Drew Adams, a transgender male who was prohibited from using the boys’ bathroom at the school he attended because of a school board policy in St. Johns County, Florida. Adams is arguing that the school board’s policy of prohibiting him from using the boys’ bathroom violated his constitutional rights under the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, as well as his rights under Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972. 

“Transgender students deserve to feel safe and respected at all times, especially at school,” said Attorney General James. “Denying transgender students access to the correct bathroom cultivates a culture of intolerance and is blatant discrimination. This lawsuit is about more than just equal bathroom access — it is about eliminating unfair treatment of non-cisgendered students across the nation. Drew Adams should have never been discriminated against and the continued efforts to discriminate against transgender students is exactly why our coalition will do everything in our power to ensure they are provided with equal protection under the law.”

The brief — filed in the en banc phase of proceedings before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit — supports Adams in his lawsuit against the St. Johns County school board for violating Title IX, as well as the Equal Protection Clause. Adams was prohibited from using the boys’ bathroom at Nease High School in Ponte Vede, Florida while he was a student, although Adams is recognized as male on both his birth certificate and his driver’s license, has undergone surgery to conform his body to his gender identity, uses the men’s bathroom wherever he goes except at school, and was treated as a boy in every way at school except for which bathroom he was allowed to use.  

Attorney General James leads the coalition of attorneys general in arguing that the experiences of states involved show that policies that are inclusionary of transgender people lead to significant individual and societal benefits without jeopardizing student safety or privacy. This includes policies allowing transgender students to use sex-segregated bathrooms consistent with their gender identity.

Previously in this case, in February 2019, Attorney General James co-led a coalition in filing an amicus brief in the panel phase of proceedings before the same court, arguing in favor of Adams.

Today’s action is just the latest in a long list of measures Attorney General James has taken to protect transgender students across the nation. Last month, Attorney General James led a coalition of 20 attorneys general in filing an amicus brief in the case Soule v. Connecticut Association of Schools in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, opposing the plaintiffs’ efforts to bar transgender students from participating in gender-segregated school sports in Connecticut.

In December 2020, Attorney General James co-led a multi-state coalition in submitting an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Hecox v. Little, in support of a challenge to an Idaho law that barred female transgender students from participating in any public school or public university-sponsored female sports.

In November 2019, Attorney General James successfully co-led a coalition of attorneys general in the fight to support the rights of transgender students to use bathrooms in line with their gender identity in the case Gavin Grimm v. Gloucester County School Board in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. The court ruled, in August 2020, that the Gloucester County school board violated the former student’s constitutional rights.

Joining Attorney General James in filing today’s brief are the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaiʻi, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

The amicus brief was prepared by Assistant Solicitor General Mark S. Grube, Assistant Deputy Solicitor General Andrew Amend, Deputy Solicitor General Anisha S. Dasgupta, and Solicitor General Barbara D. Underwood — all of the Division for Appeals and Opinions.