Parent of Transgender Student Gives Public Remarks for the First Time at Florida School Board Meeting Amid Investigation Fraught with Anti-Transgender Bias

Jessica Norton, with support from the community, speaks directly to Broward County School Board to address the devastating impact of the investigation on her daughter and family

COCONUT CREEK, Florida - June 18, 2024 - Today, Jessica Norton, the mother of a transgender student athlete and employee of Monarch High School, gave her first public remarks at the Broward County School Board meeting amid the seven-month long investigation of allegedly violating the Fairness in Women's Sports Act. The school board was scheduled to consider a final recommendation from the Superintendent that Norton be terminated from her employment with the District, but unexpectedly withdrew the agenda item last Friday without giving notice or explanation. Despite this change, Norton, accompanied by her husband Gary, still gave public comment about the investigation, which has been tainted with anti-transgender bias, mischaracterizations and factual inaccuracies.

"My daughter was flourishing at Monarch, I saw the light in her eyes gleam with future plans of organizing and attending prom, participating and leading senior class traditions and speaking at graduation203 days ago [at the start of the investigation], I watched as that light was extinguished. She walked out of the front door of the school, distraught, never to be heard from again203 days later, no one cared," said Jessica Norton. "School administration claims to care about all students but they don't care about my child. All of them should be embarrassed that they're in charge of the lives of children seeing as they had no problem destroying the life of my daughter. But you know what, it's alright if I'm the villain in their story because I am the hero in my daughter's story."

"The basic principles of due process demand notice and an opportunity to be heard. Ms. Norton has never even been told what conduct she engaged in or failed to engage in that would justify an investigation in the first place," said Jason Starr, Human Rights Campaign Litigation Strategist. "Since the launch of the investigation, Ms. Norton, unlike the District, has acted in good faith. Their lack of clear communication, shifting expectations, and failure to provide Ms. Norton a clear statement of the facts supporting her termination constitutes a denial of her due process rights and, frankly, suggests that this entire process is working toward a predetermined outcome."

Norton, on behalf of her daughter, brought a lawsuit in 2021 against the School District, State Education Department, and Florida High School Athletic Association challenging the Fairness in Women's Sports Act, the very law she is accused of having violated in this employment investigation even though, by the law's own terms, it only applies to schools and not individuals. On November 6, 2023, District Judge Roy Altman dismissed the complaint but invited Norton to refile the case under a different legal standard.

On November 21, 2023, Broward School Board member Daniel Foganholi, who was not elected by his constituents but rather handpicked and placed by Governor DeSantis, reported that he had received an "anonymous tip" indicating that a transgender student was playing sports at Monarch High Schoolthat student being Norton's daughter. The School Board, Superintendent, and senior District leadership were all aware who Norton's daughter was and that she continued to play volleyball at Monarch High School. No one in the District told Norton that her daughter could not play sports, however only Norton, her mother and employee who has no responsibility for setting or maintaining policy regarding athletics, is the only employee who is being disciplined.


"Her unwavering support and dedication to her students went far beyond the confines of her office, fostering an environment where we felt valued, challenged, and empowered to reach our fullest potential. Mrs. Norton's guidance extended well beyond academic matters," said Lincoln Le, Monarch High School 2020 Class President. "She took the time to listen to our concerns, offer invaluable advice, and provide a safe space for us to navigate the challenges of high school life. Her genuine care for our well-being and her ability to relate to us on a personal level made her a trusted confidante for many of us during those formative years."

"Jessica Norton makes a positive impact on all she comes into contact with. Jessica was always there for my kids through all their years of schooling from Elementary PTA Volunteer to Monarch High School Employee," said Brandy Drabik, parent of a Monarch High School student. "She has always provided a safe place and someone to talk to on bad days. High School is a scary place and Jessica being at the school always gave me comfort as a mother that they had a friend and someone to go to."

"This mom was doing everything right. She was making sure her child was happy, healthy, attending school, and getting good grades. She was affirming her child, providing for her family, and creating a loving household. To retaliate against a mom for simply affirming her own child is wrong, and goes against our rights as parents," said Nadine Smith, Executive Director of Equality Florida. "This is a poignant example of how DeSantis' bigoted laws have placed our families directly in the line of fire, stripping parents of their rights and students of their dignity. The Broward County School Board has a lot of work to do to repair the damage inflicted on this family, school, and community."


"Good morning my name is Jessica Norton and I'm a proud mother of three. I have lived in Coconut Creek for over 13 years and all 3 of my children graduated from or would have graduated from Monarch High School. Since 2017, I have also been an employee of the Broward County School District. I love my job, and the students and colleagues that I get to work with. In addition to being an IMS, I love being a trusted advisor to the Monarch seniors. It is a privilege for me to be for them the person who I needed as a high school senior figuring out the next phase of life.

I don't have to tell you about all the heart that I bring to the Monarch High School community. The public statements of support that you have received on my behalf tell the story of who I am and what I have meant to countless students, colleagues, and families at Monarch High School.

I'm also not here to beg you for my job. The decision to make a political example out of me was made before the alleged anonymous tip that launched this disaster of an investigation. We are here to speak for our family and tell you how your careless actions have affected our daughter and our family.

For 203 days, we have lived in a constant state of limbo and uncertainty. It feels never ending. This has added unimaginable stress to my family's lives.

I've complied with the requirements of the investigation at every step. I have been direct and truthful but the District officials have not afforded me the same respect. I have been disregarded by the District both as a parent and dedicated employee.

The District completely ignored my rights under my collective bargaining agreement which requires that this investigation be concluded within 30 days.

At my reassignment location I was required to perform manual and janitorial services for over three months rather than being assigned clerical work similar to my job function, not in keeping with District policy.

I had to sit through an interview where SIU detectives insisted on referring to my daughter as my son, as he/him refusing to use her legal gender and refusing to use her legal name, even though my attorneys reminded them of the facts numerous times during the interview.

I had to read materials in the investigation in which the same detectives referred to my daughter to others as "it".

I had to review documents that the SIU planned to release to the public that included identifying information about my daughter and when it was flagged for them, no one would confirm that the information was redacted. I have never seen a complete report of my investigation. In fact, I have discovered important information about this investigation, not from the investigators, but from the press.

I had to find out in a Sun-Sentinel news article that the Professional Standards Committee recommended that I be suspended for 10-days rather than terminated but I have been in limbo for more than 200 with the hanging threat of termination.

I found out, again in a Sun-Sentinel news article on Friday evening, that my termination had been removed from consideration at this Board meeting. The District has yet to notify me or my attorneys of that decision, why it was made, or what will happen next.

For 203 days, I have been forthright and honest and have not been treated with a shred of respect or simple decency.

District leadership tried to ruin my life, but instead destroyed the life of an innocent 16 year old girl. They destroyed her high school career and her lifelong memories and experiences.

My daughter was flourishing at Monarch. She was not just a volleyball player. She was also a very involved student - Freshman and Sophomore class president, director of philanthropy for student government, and Homecoming princess.

I saw the light in my daughter's eyes gleam with future plans of organizing and attending prom, participating and leading senior class traditions, speaking at graduation, and going off to college with the confidence and joy that any student like her would after a successful and enriching high school experience.

And 203 days ago, I watched as that light was extinguished. She walked out of the front door of the school, distraught, never to be heard from again. And 203 days later, has shown our family that they care. Not one person in the District who is responsible for her checked-in on her safety or well-being. They claim to care about all students but they didn't care about my child. My husband and I had to ensure that she completed her end of semester exams. We had to enroll her in Broward virtual school. And we had to keep her safe during those incredibly scary early days when, because of the reckless manner in which this investigation was announced, her identity was outed to our community. The truth is they stopped caring about all LGBTQ students.

The senior leaders of the District should be embarrassed that they're in charge of the lives of children seeing as they had no problem destroying the life of mine.

But you know what, it's okay if I'm the villain in their story because I am the hero in my daughter's story."

The Human Rights Campaign is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ+ people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.

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