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Mom of Broward trans student speaks out, says investigation destroyed daughter's life

Monarch mom speaks out about trans daughter
Monarch mom speaks out about trans daughter 02:44

FORT LAUDERDALE - Jessica Norton waited months to tell her family's story and when she finally spoke to the Broward School Board Tuesday, she was blunt.

"The district tried to ruin my life, instead you destroyed a 16-year-old's life."

Her daughter, once a member of the Monarch High School volleyball team in Coconut Creek, had her life upended last fall when the district said she was violating a state law preventing transgender girls from participating in girls' sports.

Norton told the Board that her daughter had been elected freshman and sophomore class president, was selected the student body's director of philanthropy and was a homecoming princess. That all ended when the investigation began and the girl left Monarch.

"They destroyed her high school career and her lifelong memories," Norton said. "I saw the light in my daughter's eyes gleam with future plans of organizing and attending prom, participating in 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 encouraging high school experience. And 203 days ago, I watched as that life was extinguished."

"She went from socializing to doing work at our dining room table," said Norton. 

Norton says her daughter is attending virtual school after leaving Monarch last year. 

The Board did not respond to any comments or explain why they didn't take up the issue of whether to fire Jessica Norton from her tech job at Monarch High. 

The family is suing the state over the law that passed and was signed by Governor Ron Desantis in 2021.

"They created a solution for a problem that didn't exist," said their lawyer Jason Starr. 

Norton said her daughter was thriving at Monarch before an anonymous tipster notified a Broward County school board member in November that the teen was playing on the girls' volleyball team in apparent violation of state law.

The 2021 Fairness in Women's Sports Act bars students who were born male from participating in girls' sports.

That November tip launched a school district investigation that has led to Norton facing the possible loss of her job as a computer information specialist at Monarch because she allowed her daughter to play. Investigators also said she didn't, as part of her job, change the child's gender on school records back to "male" from "female," as required by district policy.

None of the board's nine members responded to Norton, a seven-year district employee who received stellar evaluations before November.

Treatment of transgender children has been a hot-button issue across the country over the last few years. Florida is among at least 25 states that adopted bans on gender-affirming care for minors and one of at least 24 states that's adopted a law banning transgender women and girls from certain women's and girls sports.

The board had been scheduled to vote Tuesday on Superintendent Howard Hepburn's recommendation that Norton be fired, but that decision has been delayed at least a month. 

A district committee recommended that Norton receive a 10-day suspension, but Hepburn overrode it. He has not said why. The board could fire Norton, suspend her or do nothing.

Monarch Principal James Cecil and three other administrators were temporarily reassigned when the investigation began, but were reinstated after student protests. The state's athletic commission fined the school $16,500.

Broward is one of Florida's most politically liberal counties, with twice as many Democrats as Republicans, and has a large LGBTQ+ community.

The countywide school district is the nation's fifth largest, with almost 255,000 students at 327 schools.

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