Facings federal threats of lost millions in funding for the children of taxpaying parents, a school district in the suburbs of Chicago voted on Thursday to allow a male high school student who dresses like a girl and otherwise identifies as female to use the girls’ locker room and shower there.
The student will use a separate, semi-private area in the girls’ locker room of his public high school.
The settlement between the U.S. Department of Education and the school district — the largest in Illinois — provides that the male student can use girls’ locker rooms as long as he changes in changing stations described as private, according to a Department of Education statement.
The feds have also deigned to allow the district to install curtains in the girls’ locker room for use by any actual, biological girls who want privacy.
The district must also arrange for the male student to have access to female bathroom and changing facilities at all district-sponsored activities off-campus activities and must create a “support team” for this one student to ensure he is happy.
The Education Department statement, which consistently identifies the male student with female pronouns, lauds the settlement agreement.
“I commend the Board of Education of Township High School District 211 for taking steps necessary to protect civil rights as well as student privacy,” assistant secretary for civil rights Catherine E. Lhamon said. “We are grateful that the board and superintendent chose to come into full compliance with our nation’s civil rights laws. And, we look forward to partnering with the district to assure that the terms of this agreement are fully and effectively implemented.”
Under Lhamon, the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights had previously found the school district in violation of Title IX, a comprehensive 1972 federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, to transgender cases. (RELATED: TWO PEOPLE Have Filed OVER 1,700 Sex Discrimination Complaints With Dept. Of Education)
Many parents and community members were unhappy with the 5-2 vote school board vote in favor of the settlement. They showed up at a school board meeting in the Conant High School cafeteria in the city of Hoffman Estates on Wednesday evening to vent their anger about the agreement.
Some displeased denizens brought signs. “Settling is losing” read one, according to the Chicago Tribune.
“I’m not intolerant, and I’m not a bigot,” Jeff Miller, parent of a district daughter, said at the meeting, according to the Tribune. “People have the right in this country to live their lives the way they see fit, and I respect that. When it starts infringing on other people’s rights, that’s when it becomes a problem.”
Other school district residents said they approved of the settlement.
“What if this were your child?” parent Teresa Saunders asked, as she cried a little.
“I can’t imagine anything more damaging for a student than to be told they are different from all their fellow students,” Saunders also chided, notes the Tribune. “In doing so, the administration is treating them as though they weren’t human beings at all.”
About this time in November, the U.S. Department of Education gave Township High School District 211 one month to let the transgender male student use the girls’ locker room or risk the loss of federal funding. (RELATED: Feds Order High School To Allow Boys Who Dress As Girls To Use Girls’ Shower, Locker Room)
The Department of Education’s civil rights division made its Title IX ruling after a two-year investigation using a “preponderance of evidence” standard.
The unidentified high school student at the center of the ruling currently is listed as a girl in school files, uses girls’ restrooms and plays on girls’ sports teams.
The student wants to be treated like a female in every respect by the school district which enrolls over 12,000 students.
Showering in a place where there are no girls — which district officials wanted the male student to do — is stigmatizing and “blatant discrimination,” John Knight, director of the LGBT and AIDS Project at ACLU of Illinois, told the Tribune last month.
The ACLU of Illinois has represented the student.
School officials had previously worked out a plan under which the student could a separate locker room and shower facility so girls using the primary girls’ locker room and shower would not feel uncomfortable. The goal was to balance rights — to accommodate the student while, at the same time, “to protect the privacy rights of all students when changing clothes or showering before or after physical education and after-school activities,” according to a recent school district press release obtained by the Daily Herald, a suburban Chicago newspaper.