Transgender student gains locker room access at Fremd High School

A transgender student who won limited access to the girls locker room at Fremd High School after filing a federal complaint received that access Friday, as Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 met the deadline to comply with its agreement with the U.S. Department of Education.

But because first-semester classes are wrapping up before finals, students likely won't be changing clothes for gym again until the start of the second semester in the last week of January, District 211 spokesman Tom Petersen said.

The school has installed five bathroom-style stalls in each of the girls and boys locker rooms at Fremd. The district has held staff training at all five high schools on providing support for students with gender-identity needs.

There was virtually no cost associated with the new privacy stalls because they came from the district's stock of replacements for bathrooms and were put in by maintenance staff, Petersen said.

Though an explanatory letter to parents has already been sent by Fremd High School Principal Kurt Tenopir, community information sessions, providing much of the same information staff members heard, are being scheduled.

The American Civil Liberties Union has represented the transgender student since the complaint was filed. ACLU spokesman Ed Yohnka said he was disappointed more of the information now planned to be shared with the public by the district wasn't earlier.

"This was such an opportunity to educate the public to build understanding across lines," Yohnka said.

The transgender student - who was born male but identifies as female - has been working diligently with her family on implementation of the agreement, Yohnka said.

Their greatest hope is that the agreement will pave the way for all transgender students in the district to have access to the locker rooms of the genders they identify with, he added.

The agreement District 211 reached with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights late last year provides locker room access only for the student who filed the federal complaint. She will shower and change in private stalls within the girls locker room.

In exchange, the district avoided any threat of being ruled out of compliance with the Title IX law prohibiting sex discrimination, which might have imperiled about $6 million a year in federal funding.

The agreement does not require any change to facilities at District 211's other high schools, Petersen said.

Nevertheless, privacy stalls were installed in both the girls and boys locker rooms at Fremd to ensure fairness there, he said.

But if other girls are uncomfortable with a transgender student in their locker room the district will make other accommodations, Peterson said.

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