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Mom at heart of Broward transgender athlete controversy: My daughter was wrongly outed

One of five Monarch High School employees whose jobs are on the line for letting a transgender girl play on a female volleyball team criticized officials Monday for outing the student — who is also her daughter.

Jessica Norton, an information technology worker at the high school in Coconut Creek, issued a public statement Monday thanking the community for its support and identifying herself as the mother of the transgender athlete. In her statement, she said that “forced outing, particularly of a child, is a direct attempt to endanger the person.”

Though the athlete was not identified by name by state or local officials, her identity became clear at Monarch, her coach said Monday. Norton and four others, including the principal, were shifted to jobs off campus last week as the Broward County School District investigates the apparent breach of state law that says a person born biologically male may not play on a female sports team in secondary public school in Florida.

Norton’s daughter was born male but has identified as a girl since before elementary school. She took testosterone blockers at age 11, and is on estrogen now to experience puberty as a female, according to related court documents.

Norton is a volleyball coach at Monarch but did not coach her daughter this year.

“The outpouring of love and support from our community this past week has been inspiring, selfless and brave. Watching our community’s resistance and display of love has been so joyous for our family — the light leading us through this darkness. I want everyone to know that we see you, and we are so grateful for you,” Norton said in a statement released Monday by the national Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ advocacy group.

“A lot of things were taken from my family this week — our privacy, sense of safety, and right to self-determination,” Norton’s statement says. “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. 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’s daughter, a sophomore at the school, played on the varsity volleyball team the past two years.

The Norton family sued the school district and state officials in 2021 in hopes the law would be found unconstitutional and she could play high school sports. The Human Rights Campaign provided legal representation. A judge ruled against the family in November, though allowing time for the lawsuit to be amended.

Monarch High School students conduct a walkout on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023, after the principal, James Cecil, and other staff members were removed from their positions pending an investigation. The reassignments occurred because a transgender student had been playing volleyball at the school in Coconut Creek, Florida.
Monarch High School students conduct a walkout on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023, after the principal, James Cecil, and other staff members were removed from their positions pending an investigation. The reassignments occurred because a transgender student had been playing volleyball at the school in Coconut Creek, Florida.

The Miami Herald is not identifying the student. But the Human Rights Campaign’s deputy director of communications, Aryn Fields, said the family consented to having Norton’s name and relationship to the athlete published because “they’ve already been outed to their community.”

The student’s varsity coach, Alex Burgess, said he was not aware she was transgender until the school district’s investigation.

Burgess, a 21-year-old former player at Monarch, was not a full-time staffer, but is among the five under investigation. He said he was told not to return to campus. The volleyball season is over.

“I had no clue,” he said Monday. “I guess there was some people who already knew, but I guess whoever came in to kind of investigate kind of pointed fingers at her.”

The school district’s handling of the case drew criticism from the organization Safe Schools South Florida. The district did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“The potential inadvertent outing of a minor, who may not have publicly disclosed their transgender status, is deeply troubling,” Scott Galvin, the organization’s executive director and a North Miami city councilman, said in a written statement last week. “Such actions can inflict irreversible psychological harm and betray the trust that every student should have in their educational institution.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the Fairness In Women’s Sports Act into law in 2021.