August 25, 2020

Last year, Jenner & Block Associate Caroline C. Cease,along with former partner Devi Rao and former associate Zachary Blau, wrote and filed a brief on behalf of various health care organizations as amici curiae in Adams v. School Board of St. Johns County, an Eleventh Circuit transgender rights case. 

The key issue in the case was whether the Fourteenth Amendment and Title IX prohibited the school board from denying a transgender male student access to the boys’ restroom. The firm’s amici brief informed the court, among other things,of the medical consensus regarding what it means to be transgender and the predictable harms to the health and well-being of transgender adolescents when they are barred from restrooms that match their gender identity.

In its decision in August, the Eleventh Circuit concluded that the school board’s rules for restroom use violated the student’s Constitutional and statutory rights: “A public school may not punish its students for gender nonconformity” nor may it “harm transgender students by establishing arbitrary, separate rules for their restroom use.” 

Relying in part on the US Supreme Court’s recent decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, and citing medical evidence similar to that cited in the firm’s amicus brief, the court held that the student “suffered both these indignities” such that the school board violated his rights under the Fourteenth Amendment and Title IX.  The win is a victory for transgender rights, and the decision sent a clear message that transgender students must be treated with the same respect given to any other student.