CHICAGO — A school district in the Chicago area is remaining steadfast in its refusal to allow a male student who identifies as female to change in the girls’ locker room despite an opinion from the U.S. Department of Education that the district is violating federal law.
According to reports, an unidentified high school student within Township High School District 211 requested to use the girls’ locker room nearly two years ago since the student asserts that they identify as female.
But the district declined, citing the privacy concerns of the other students. It in turn offered the student a private location to change, but the student rejected the accommodation. He then contacted the American Civil Liberties Union, which in turn filed a federal complaint with the Office of Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education.
“They are telling a student that she can’t be with her friends at school but has to be relegated to a separate place to dress. That’s just a horrible thing to do,” John Knight, director of ACLU Illinois’ LGBT program, told the Daily Herald.
The Department of Education responded by opining that the district had to permit the student to use the locker room of his choice due to Title IX requirements.
But the district continues to refuse, and recently went public with the matter to outline its viewpoint.
“After serious and lengthy consideration, the district will continue to provide private accommodations for transgender students to ensure a respectful school environment, and will not allow unrestricted access to its locker rooms as directed by OCR,” it announced in a press release this month.
The district said that it desired to “to protect the privacy rights of all students when changing clothes or showering before or after physical education and after-school activities, while also providing accommodations necessary to meet the unique needs of individual students.”
“We believe that we would be compromising other students’ privacy if we did this. We do not believe we are discriminating,” Superintendent Daniel Cates added to the Daily Herald. “They are asking us to have opposite-sex students in the same open area of the locker room and showers. We do not do that.”
The district acknowledges that litigation or enforcement action may result from its decision, including the loss of $6 million in federal funding.
“District 211 has provided individual accommodations in a manner that does not infringe on the privacy concerns of other students, and it will continue to do so,” it said in it its statement. “It is the district’s position that OCR’s unilateral mandate does not consider the best interests of all District 211 students and their families.”
The ACLU remarked that now the government has spoken, it could lay the groundwork for schools nationwide.
“Having a finding and analysis from the Department of Education specific to locker rooms will certainly have a national impact in terms of telling school districts around the country what they should be doing,” Knight said.