ACLU wants to intervene in Dist. 211 transgender lawsuit

The American Civil Liberties Union hopes to intervene in the lawsuit parents and students filed against Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 and the U.S. Department of Education last week over a transgender student's limited access to a girls locker room.

ACLU of Illinois spokesman Ed Yohnka said a motion to intervene is expected to be filed in U.S. District Court in the coming days, putting the agency in a position to help the school district and federal officials defend an agreement giving the Fremd High School student access.

Yohnka said the ACLU will represent students and parents who side with the district's policy.

"Many have expressed anger at the misstatements and factual inaccuracies advanced by those filing the lawsuit last week," Yohnka said in a statement released Tuesday. "More have voiced concern about any effort to reverse policies that treat all students, including those who are transgender, in a fair and equitable way."

While the ACLU originally argued that the agreement between District 211 and the Department of Education did not go far enough to address the rights of the transgender student, the request to intervene would put the agency in a position to defend the agreement.

"I'm amazed every day at the ironies that abound in life," Yohnka said, adding that if allowed to intervene the ACLU would try to have the lawsuit dismissed.

The Alliance Defending Freedom and Thomas More Society - religious freedom organizations representing the families suing the district - plan to seek a preliminary injunction that would suspend the locker-room access agreement until the lawsuit can be considered in full. They argue that the Department of Education is misinterpreting the federal Title IX law prohibiting sex discrimination by including protection of gender identity under its banner.

Yohnka said the ACLU should be a party to the lawsuit because it filed the original complaint that led to the agreement.

District 211 officials declined to comment Tuesday, while the Alliance Defending Freedom did not return a phone call seeking comment.

The agreement allows the student, who was born biologically male but identifies as female, access to the girls locker room as long as she uses a private changing stall. A few additional changing stalls for other students to use also were put in the locker room.

District 211's administrative board policy group recommended last month against adopting a districtwide policy on transgender access to locker rooms and restrooms. Instead, the district is continuing its practice of finding special accommodations for students that request them on a case-by-case basis.

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