Family sues school district over law that bans transgender volleyball player from girls’ sports

Jan 12, 2024, 11:35 AM

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — The family of a transgender volleyball player has added a South Florida school district as a defendant in a federal lawsuit that challenges a 2021 state law banning transgender girls from playing on female sports teams, claiming school officials have placed the family in danger.

Attorneys for the family filed an amended complaint Thursday that adds the Broward School Board, the school district’s superintendent and the Florida High School Athletic Association. The school officials had been named as defendants when the lawsuit was initially filed in 2021 but were dropped the next year, leaving just the Florida Department of Education and Education Commissioner Manny Diaz as defendants.

“While we can’t comment on pending litigation, Broward County Public Schools remains committed to following all state laws,” district spokesman John J. Sullivan said in a statement. “The District assures the community of its dedication to the welfare of all its students and staff.”

U.S. District Judge Roy Altman, a Trump appointee, ruled in November that state officials had a right to enforce a 2021 law that bars transgender girls and women from playing on public school teams intended for student athletes identified as female at birth but allowed the family to file an amended complaint.

The law, which supporters named “The Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,” was championed and signed in by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is running for president and has leaned heavily into cultural divides on race, sexual orientation and gender.

The transgender student, a Monarch High School 10th grader who played in 33 matches over the past two seasons, was removed from the team in November after the Broward County School District was notified by an anonymous tipster about her participation.

According to the lawsuit, the student has identified as female since before elementary school and has been using a girl’s name since second grade. At age 11 she began taking testosterone blockers and at 13 started taking estrogen to begin puberty as a girl. Her gender has also been changed on her birth certificate.

The girl’s removal from the volleyball team led hundreds of Monarch students to walk out of class in protest. At the same time, Broward Superintendent Peter Licata suspended or temporarily reassigned five school officials pending an investigation, including the girl’s mother, an information technician at the school.

The Associated Press is not naming the student to protect her privacy.

The initial lawsuit didn’t identify the student or her school, but the amended complaint said the family lost all privacy when the school district began its investigation. The student’s mother issued a statement at the time calling the outing of her daughter a “direct attempt to endanger” the girl.

The Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ+ rights organization, has been supporting the family.

“The reckless indifference to the well-being of our client and her family, and all transgender students across the State, will not be ignored,” the group’s litigation strategist, Jason Starr, said in a statement last month.

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Family sues school district over law that bans transgender volleyball player from girls’ sports