The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently became the first Federal appellate court to decide that a school policy separating student bathrooms based on “biological sex” “passes constitutional muster and comports with Title IX.” Three judges dissented.
According to the seven-judge majority’, bathrooms can be segregated by “biological sex” as evidenced by the student’s enrollment documents even if doing so excludes transgender students from bathrooms matching their gender identities. Such a rule is not required, but the decision gives a green light within the Eleventh Circuit’s jurisdiction (Alabama, Florida, and Georgia) for schools to choose to implement such a rule.
The decision, Adams v. School Board of St. Johns County, Florida, conflicts with decisions by two other Federal appellate courts and does not change the law in those states (Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin). So, it may be well-suited for review by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Unless and until that happens, however, the 150-page decision adds to school leaders’ confusion about handling requests from transgender students. The case leaves many unanswered questions, even for schools within the Eleventh Circuit’s jurisdiction and jurisdictions like the Fifth Circuit (Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas), which do not have a conflicting decision. It could even raise questions for any employer subject to Title VII when addressing a request about facilities by a transgender employee. So much for legal opinions clarifying the law for us!
So, what do you need to know? Keep reading for four fundamental takeaways to help cut through the confusion on this critical case.