CHICAGO — The Obama administration has ordered a school district in Illinois to allow a male student who identifies a female to use the girls’ locker room or face enforcement measures that could mean the loss of $6 million in federal funding.
As previously reported, 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.
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. The two sides continued in talks for a number of months, but the district held firm on requiring privacy for female students while offering various accommodations, which were refused.
On Monday, the Department released its final remarks following the conclusion of its investigation into the matter.
“[T]he evidence establishes that, given Student A’s intention to change privately, the district could afford equal access to its locker rooms for all students if it installed and maintained privacy curtains in sufficient number to be reasonably available for any student who wants privacy,” its letter reads in part, noting that the district did so last week.
“Here the totality of the circumstances weighs in favor of the district granting Student A equal access to the girls’ locker rooms, while protecting the privacy of its students,” the Department opined.
However, negotiations remain impasse. The district now has 30 days to settle the matter or it could be penalized.
“To date, OCR’s efforts to resolve this complaint voluntarily with the district have not been successful,” the letter states. “If an agreement is not reached within 30 calendar days of the date of this letter of findings, OCR must follow the procedures … for the issuance of a letter of impending enforcement action.”
“This decision makes me extremely happy because of what it means for me, personally, and for countless others,” the unidentified student said in a statement released by the ACLU. “The district’s policy stigmatized me, often making me feel like I was not a ‘normal person.'”
But the district continues to maintain that it has done no wrong.
“We believe the law is aligned with our current position, and we are prepared to pursue all measures of due process in order to hear this argument out,” said Superintendent Daniel Cates in a statement. “We don’t believe, and it is false to report that we broke the law because the [office of civil rights] said we did. I believe in this case, they have overstepped.”