Starting Tuesday, a transgender student at a middle school in Elgin Area School District U-46 will be able to use the locker room that corresponds with the student's gender identity at the same time as other students, according to a school board member.
Jeanette Ward, elected to the seven-member board last year, said district practice has been to allow transgender students to change in the locker room of their choice if other students aren't present. Ward said she believes the situation involving the student at one of the district's eight middle schools sets a precedent for the district's other schools.
Ward wrote a post about the topic Monday afternoon on her Facebook page. She said in a subsequent interview that the administration informed board members about the case in the past few days but administrators did not intend to inform parents or the public.
"I believe this is a hot enough issue that it should've been brought to the board for deliberation and discussion before this kind of practice change was made," Ward said.
In response to questions about the transgender student's use of the locker room, U-46 CEO Tony Sanders said in an emailed statement that the district is barred by federal and state law from releasing information about specific students.
"As such, administration will not share with a school community if a transgender student is utilizing the locker room of his or her choice," Sanders wrote.
A school district spokeswoman declined additional comment beyond Sanders' statement, which he also posted to his Facebook page.
While most transgender students in U-46 schools prefer to change in private, "the needs of each student is addressed on a case-by-case basis," Sanders' statement reads.
Ward declined to identify the middle school or whether the transgender student will be able to use the girls or boys locker room. She also didn't say why the student will be able to use the locker room for the first time Tuesday. Classes began Aug. 17.
Noting that districts across the country are working to address the needs of transgender students, Sanders also said U-46 will continue to work with individual transgender students and their families.
Earlier this year, Palatine-Schaumburg Township High School District 211 and the U.S. Department of Education struck an agreement that allows a transgender student limited access to the girls locker room at Fremd High School in Palatine. That agreement is now being challenged in federal court by a citizens group that wants to have the practice reversed.
Ward said she plans to bring the topic up for discussion at the next U-46 school board meeting, Sept. 12.