Illinois district gives transgender students unrestricted access to locker rooms

Nov. 15, 2019
The decision by the Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 board resolves a four-year fight over transgender students' access to locker rooms

A longtime debate in an Illinois school district over transgender access to school locker rooms has been decided in favor of transgender students.

The Daily Herald reports that the Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 board voted 5 to 2 to end a requirement that transgender students use privacy stalls when dressing in locker rooms.

Privacy stalls have been made available for all students in locker rooms at the district's five high schools, but only transgender students have been required to use them.

When second semester classes begin next year, no such rule will be in effect.

"Discrimination is never an acceptable compromise," board member Kim Cavill said.

Nova Maday, a transgender 2018 graduate of Palatine High School who has a discrimination lawsuit pending against the district, says she hopes the decision will prompt other districts to follow suit.

But she says the board vote doesn't accomplish every improvement she has sought for transgender students. One example of what's not included, she said, is easing the process of getting one's named changed on a student ID.

An opponent of the board's decision called the new policy "a joke and a slap in the face."

"When you turn all intimate spaces coed, that's egregious," says Vicki Wilson, a Palatine resident who co-founded the residents group Students and Parents for Privacy.

She says there aren't enough privacy stalls for every student to use each class period, and teens who do or try to use them are ridiculed.

Superintendent Dan Cates addressed the long-running public debate and the district's evolving response to the issue.

"One of the biggest concerns we continue to hear is the idea that anyone can go in any locker room whenever they feel like it—as if a different gender can be declared at will," Cates said. "That's not the way it works in District 211. Upon a request from the student's parent or guardian, a student's stated gender in the official school record establishes the student's gender for access to gender-specific facilities."

The superintendent says there has been no disruption caused by transgender and gender non-conforming students' sharing locker rooms with other students since the current practice was established nearly four years ago. But some opponents of the policy challenged his assertion.

Allowing transgender students' unrestricted access to locker rooms was the goal of a federal complaint in 2015 of a Fremd High School student who had been required to use a private space outside the girls' locker room to change for gym class.

"Student A," as that now-former student continues to be called, was born male but identifies as female.

After District 211's practice was deemed to be in violation of federal anti-discrimination requirements, the district negotiated the arrangement requiring transgender students to use privacy stalls.

That compromise was first challenged by a federal lawsuit filed in May 2016 by Students and Parents for Privacy, arguing that it went too far in violating the privacy rights of other students. The compromise was further challenged in November 2017 by Maday's lawsuit, arguing that it maintained the discrimination against transgender students that was the basis of Student A's original complaint.

Students and Parents for Privacy dropped its lawsuit this April after a judge dismissed portions of it. But members of the group became more vocal again in September after Cates proposed unrestricted access for transgender students.

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