Florida mother of trans student athlete suggests teen was outed amid controversy

The mother of a Florida student athlete suggested her teenage daughter was outed as transgender after the school district reportedly launched an investigation into the teen’s participation on her school’s girls volleyball team.

Officials in Broward County reassigned the principal and several other school staffers at Monarch High School to nonschool sites last week, according to a spokesperson for Broward County Public Schools. The reassignments coincided with a school district investigation into whether the school let a trans student compete on its girls volleyball team, NBC South Florida reported, which would violate state law. While the spokesperson would not confirm whether the investigation and reassignments were related to a trans student competing on the girls volleyball team, the spokesperson said in a statement last week that they centered on “allegations of improper student participation in sports.”

The staffing reassignments and investigation prompted hundreds of students at the high school to stage a walkout last week, which garnered national media attention.

Students at at Monarch High School in Coconut Creek walked out of class around noon Tuesday to protest the reassignment of Principal James Cecil and staffers.
Students at Monarch High School conduct a walkout.NBC South Florida

The unidentified transgender student’s mother, Jessica Norton, who works in Monarch High School’s information technology department, appeared to suggest in a statement Monday that the chain of events outed her daughter as trans.  

“A lot of things were taken from my family this week—our privacy, sense of safety, and right to self-determination,” Norton said in a statement through the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ advocacy group. “There is a long history in this country of outing people against their will—forced outing, particularly of a child, is a direct attempt to endanger the person being outed.”

She added, “We kindly ask everyone to respect our family’s privacy, and to give our family the space we need to speak to our experience on our own terms and timeline.”

Norton also thanked the people of Coconut Creek, where the high school is located and about 15 miles north of Fort Lauderdale, for its “outpouring of love and support” over the last week.

“Watching our community’s resistance and display of love has been so joyous for our family—the light leading us through this darkness,” she said. “I want everyone to know that we see you, and we are so grateful for you.”

Aryn Fields, a spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, declined an interview request on Norton’s behalf and said in an email that Norton was not commenting on the matter beyond her statement.

A spokesperson for Broward County Public Schools did not immediately return a request for comment. 

Last week, the district’s superintendent, Peter Licata, told reporters there would be “new processes” for athlete eligibility going forward. 

“We’ll have an extra level of investigation on making sure everyone is eligible for the sport they’re playing, in all aspects, grade level, grades, so forth and so on,” Licata said.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is currently running for president, signed a bill into law in 2021 that banned trans girls and women from competing on female sports teams at public schools. The Sunshine State is one of more than 20 states to have enacted similar measures restricting trans athletes. 

A spokesperson for the governor’s office did not immediately return a request for comment. 

A lawsuit was filed in 2021 against DeSantis, the School Board of Broward County and several other Florida officials over the law. The suit described the plaintiffs as D.N., a teenage girl who intended to try out for her public school’s volleyball team in Broward County; Jessica N., the teen’s mother; and Gary N., the teen’s father. The Human Rights Campaign confirmed to NBC News on Tuesday that the plaintiffs were the Nortons.

In the lawsuit, the Nortons argued that the state law violated Title IX, a landmark civil rights law that prevents sex-based discrimination at any school that receives funding from the federal government. A federal judge rejected the family’s challenge to the law last month.

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