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Court rules school bathroom policy Constitutional

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The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Florida has ruled that a Florida school policy requiring students to use bathrooms according to their biological sex does not discriminate against transgender students on the basis of sex.

In its Dec. 30 decision, the 11-member panel also ruled 7-4 that the policy does not violate federal civil rights law by requiring transgender students to use either gender-neutral bathrooms or those that match their biological sex.

The ruling was made in response to a complaint brought by a Vedra Beach high school student who was deemed female at birth but who transitioned to male before enrolling at the school.

Representing the majority opinion, Judge Barbara Lagoa wrote that the school’s policy addresses the objective of protecting student privacy in school bathrooms. She further wrote that the policy does not violate the law because it is based on biological sex and not on gender identity.

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In her dissenting opinion, Judge Jill Pryor wrote in part that the majority opinion “employs stereotypic ideas and assumptions in an attempt to persuade readers that admitting transgender students into the bathrooms corresponding with their consistent, persistent, and insistent biological gender identity will result in the elimination of sex-separated bathroom facilities.”

Tara Borelli, senior counsel for Lambda Legal, a non-profit LGBTQ rights group that has helped the Vedra Beach high school student throughout the case, said that the ruling departed from other court decisions around the U.S.  

“This aberrant ruling contradicts the decisions of every other circuit to consider the question across the country,” Borelli said in a written statement. “Transgender students deserve the same dignity and opportunity to thrive in school as all other students.”

In Hernando County, Karen Jordan, public information officer for the Hernando County School District, previously said that the school district follows federal law forbidding it from discriminating against anyone on the basis of gender identity, transgender status, or sexual orientation.

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