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updated: 3/9/2017 11:16 AM

Transgender locker room debate comes to Palatine District 15

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  • A group of about 150 people came to support transgender students in Palatine Township Elementary District 15 outside Walter R. Sundling Jr. High Wednesday night. Here, Gearah Goldstein, a transgender woman, addresses the group.

      A group of about 150 people came to support transgender students in Palatine Township Elementary District 15 outside Walter R. Sundling Jr. High Wednesday night. Here, Gearah Goldstein, a transgender woman, addresses the group.
    Doug Graham | Staff Photographer

  • A group of around 150 people came to support transgender students in Palatine Township Elementary District 15 outside Walter R. Sundling Jr. High Wednesday night.

      A group of around 150 people came to support transgender students in Palatine Township Elementary District 15 outside Walter R. Sundling Jr. High Wednesday night.
    Doug Graham | Staff Photographer

 
 

The locker room debate that has raged on at Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 since 2015 came to the local elementary and middle schools of Palatine Township Elementary District 15 Wednesday night.

Inside the District 15 school board meeting, community members argued for and against allowing transgender students to choose their bathroom and locker room facilities. Outside, a group of about 150 people gathered to support transgender students.

The supporters, from the group Parents for Progress in Districts 15 and 211, began gathering outside Walter R. Sundling Jr. High about an hour before the meeting, carrying signs that said "Trans rights are human rights" and "Separate is not equal." They gathered on both sides of the entrance to the school so everyone who attended the meeting had to walk past.

Jennifer Gordon, who helped organize the rally, said they decided to come to the meeting when they heard that members of the group D211 Parents for Privacy would be speaking against the district's policies during public comment at the board meeting.

District 15 serves students without regard to sexual orientation or gender identity, a policy that board President Peggy Babcock said at the meeting is a common-sense measure to protect the privacy of all students using school facilities.

Linda Kapko, a district parent against the policy, read to the board a statement written by 10 District 211 high school students about how allowing transgender students to use the facilities of their choosing harmed their right to privacy.

"'We urge you to take a stand and fight for the majority of the students' -- actually that really should say 'all students,'" Kapko said before continuing to read the written statement, "'who represent the right to privacy within the intimate environments of the restroom and locker room."

Adrian Summerville, a transgender man who said he was designated female at birth, said when he was in high school and college he was afraid to go to the bathroom because he was scared of his peers and teachers.

"We're asking these children to be afraid for the rest of their lives just so that people can sit in their old conservative ways," Summerville said. "We're not magical, mystical weird things. We're not delusional, we're not monsters; we're just people. People who go to the bathroom and change whenever we are at workout facilities."

After Summerville spoke, Palatine resident Teri Paulson said people like Summerville were suffering from a very strong delusion or mental disorder.

"On one hand we can and should have compassion for trans people," Paulson began reading from a prepared statement. "On the other hand it's hard not to notice their lack of compassion for others in their single-minded obsession to be treated as the opposite sex. They seem to be completely indifferent to the suffering their demands inflict upon others."

As two sides spoke inside, the transgender supporters regrouped away from the school entrance to hear some of their leaders speak.

Gearah Goldstein, a transgender woman and advocate, said they showed up to let the board of education know the majority of the Palatine community supported the district's policy.

"Love is the opposite of fear. Love is the opposite of hate," Goldstein said to the crowd. "Fear and hate have no place in this community."

The debate comes to the board less than a month away from the April 4 election that will see 11 candidates compete for five open seats.

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