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Monarch High School students stage walkout in support of reassigned principal over trans athlete

Girl in transgender athlete controversy spoke to Broward school officials
Girl in transgender athlete controversy spoke to Broward school officials 02:49

COCONUT CREEK -- On Tuesday, more than a hundred Monarch High School students staged a walkout in support of their reassigned principal and to support a transgender girls' volleyball player. 

Principal John Cecil, an assistant principal, and an athletic director were reassigned Monday while district officials conduct an investigation into "allegations of improper student participation in sports," officials said. 

Athlete controversy at Monarch High School 03:05

The reassignment stems from the violation of a recent state law that governs sports and gender

"The school is not any good without a principal. We need someone here who is able to lead us. Even though it's a state law, I know according to state law you can't do it, but I think his punishment was too harsh," said a student.

While students said it was a tough topic to talk about because it was a sensitive issue. Others said they supported the student, but the line should be drawn.

"So, what I think about the protest is, I just don't think that, I don't think that a trans kid should be part of the girls' team," said one student. 

Superintendent Peter Licata said Tuesday that he had been called about the allegation by a constituent last Monday.  The person did not want to be identified. 

The girls' volleyball player at the heart of the controversy is accused of violating a law passed in 2021 that bans transgender students from being on a girls' team.  It's unknown how the student filled out the question on the state athletic participation form that asks for the 'sex assigned at birth.'

According to the state's Department of Education, they expect "serious consequences for those responsible."

"As soon as the Department was notified that a biological male was playing on a girls' team in Broward County, we instructed the district to take immediate action since this is a direct violation of Florida law. It is completely unacceptable for the male student to have been allowed to play on a girls' team, and we expect there will be serious consequences for those responsible."

Superintendent Licata said after an initial inquiry began a decision was made to reassign the principal, assistant principal, athletic director, a clerical worker and a coach was told there would be a pause in his service

Licata said because of what happened there will be a change in the process of how student-athletes are screened. 

CBS News Miami found out that the family of the transgender student had previously filed a lawsuit against the school board and the state regarding this issue.

The lawsuit states that "At five or six years old, [the student's] parents realized, based on her behavior and statements, that their daughter was transgender.

The lawsuit adds that the student "…began taking hormone blockers at the age of eleven to stop testosterone and stave off male puberty."

Back in 2017, the student-athlete at the center of this case spoke beside her parents at a Broward County School Board meeting, sharing her experience as a transgender girl.

"I openly transitioned three years ago. It was the best time of my life. I got to be who I was born to be. I had the support of my family, friends, and teachers, but not all kids get that privilege. I know I'm one of the lucky ones. There are lots of kids who aren't living at their true selves," said the student, who was 10 years old at the time.

According to the website for the school, which is located at 5050 Wiles Road in Coconut Creek, it has a total population of 1,571 students.

The school says its students are able to participate in a variety of activities, according to its website.

"Monarch students are provided leadership opportunities through co-curricular and extra-curricular activities," the district said. "Student government, clubs, chorus, band, sports teams, debate, academic games, and other activities allow students to develop connections to the school and the community. School activities develop character, critical thinking, and sociability, characteristics leading to lifelong success."

Florida adopts controversial law about transgender athletes

The law that  spurred the investigation in Broward County, known as SB 1028, was approved by the state's Republican-controlled Legislature and Gov. Ron DeSantis but it was immediately challenged in court in June 2021.  It was the volleyball player's family that challenged the law 

In a 2021 court document, attorneys for the state argued that the law was aimed at helping ensure athletic opportunities for girls and women who want to play interscholastic or college sports.

But the lawsuit said the law (SB 1028) is "part of a wave of anti-transgender bills" across the country and would "stigmatize this teenager and separate her from her peers and teammates."

Earlier this month, however, a federal judge rejected the challenge 

U.S. District Judge Roy Altman issued a 39-page ruling, saying the controversial law did not violate constitutional equal protection and due-process rights and Title IX, a federal law that prevents discrimination based on sex in education programs. He left open the possibility that attorneys for the Broward County student, identified by the initials D.N., could file a revised lawsuit on the protection and Title IX issues.

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