Illinois School District Reaches Controversial Agreement on Transgender Student’s Locker Room Access

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Illinois School District Reaches Controversial Agreement on Transgender Student’s Locker Room Access

Jenn Stanley

The agreement with the Department of Education upholds the school district's controversial policy to allow a transgender student to use the locker room that matches her gender identity, but only if she changes behind a curtain.

Illinois’ Township High School District 211 reached an agreement with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) this week that will allow a transgender teen to use the locker room that matches her gender identity, as long as she changes in a separate changing area.

Students will be offered accommodations to change separately if they wish.

The 5-2 school board vote in favor of the deal basically upholds the school district’s position, which has been the subject of much public dispute over the past two months. The settlement only pertains to the student who filed the federal complaint, and does not mandate a district-wide policy. It does, however, allow the district to keep $6 million annually in federal Title IX money.

The controversial decision has left many on both sides of the debate unsatisfied. John Knight, director of the LGBT & HIV Project at the American Civil Liberties Union, released a statement Thursday expressing disappointment on behalf of the transgender student who sought to use the girls’ locker room.

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“We had hoped this agreement would be a model for other districts. It is not,” Knight wrote in the statement. “When the OCR announced the findings in this matter, it said, ‘All students deserve the opportunity to participate equally in school programs and activities.’ The agreement approved last night only addresses the needs of our client, not other transgender students. This is a terrible mistake.”

Another group, District 211 Parents for Privacy, opposed any compromise with the federal government. The group believes that transgender students should not have any access to their gender-identified locker rooms or bathrooms. According to the group’s website:

Any access, even so-called “restricted access” with the condition of using privacy curtains, still does not protect the basic privacy rights of minor girls in the locker room. The female students are undressing/dressing while someone of the opposite sex is walking past on the way to or from the privacy curtains. Their basic right to privacy is clearly being violated.