Judge: ACLU can intervene in District 211 transgender lawsuit

Judge rules group's involvement won't complicate Dist. 211 case

A federal judge has allowed the American Civil Liberties Union to intervene in a lawsuit filed against Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 in which the plaintiffs seek to block transgender students from using the bathrooms and locker rooms of their self-identified gender.

The ACLU is representing three transgender District 211 students in the case - including the student whose federal complaint led to an agreement allowing limited access to a girls locker room - and two younger children currently attending feeder districts.

"We are gratified that Judge (Jorge) Alonso granted our motion to intervene in this matter," said John Knight, LGBT Project director at the ACLU of Illinois. "We believe that it is critical to include the voices and interests of students who are transgender in this lawsuit.

"It is these students' lives that will be adversely impacted if the anti-LGBT rights groups directing this lawsuit are successful in overturning not only the ability of one student to use the locker room consistent with her gender identity, but also the ability of all transgender students to use school facilities on an equal basis as their peers."

In his written opinion granting the ACLU's intervention, Alonso refuted the plaintiffs' argument that the intervention would complicate the case, saying it instead could avoid lawsuits in the future.

"In view of that consideration, plaintiffs' concern about unwieldy or prolonged proceedings appears overblown," Alonso wrote. "Intervention may make this case more complex, but not unnecessarily complex."

The lawsuit filed in early May by the religious freedom organizations Alliance Defending Freedom and Thomas More Society on behalf of a group of parents and students named District 211 and the federal departments of education and justice as defendants.

Jeremy Tedesco, senior counsel of Alliance Defending Freedom, issued a written response Thursday.

"The students and families who are involved in this case are concerned about the privacy and safety of all students attending District 211 schools," he said. "The Obama administration has arbitrarily redefined federal law leading the school district to adopt a policy that harms the children it is charged to protect. Title VII and Title IX clearly allow sex-specific locker rooms, showers and restrooms. Every student has a right to privacy and safety. It is wrong to demand that every child in the district give up these rights."

District 211 and the federal departments are the parties to the agreement allowing the transgender girl who filed the complaint to use a girls locker room as long as she always uses a private changing stall within.

But this week, another group of parents and students working with the ACLU sent a letter to District 211 asking that all students have unrestricted access to the bathrooms and locker rooms of the gender with which they identify.

District 211 spokesman Tom Petersen said he could not comment on the letter because of the ongoing litigation. He did say, though, that the district did not oppose the judge's decision to allow the ACLU to intervene.

Though the ACLU had an adversarial relationship with District 211 before their agreement, the two parties will now be essentially on the same side in the lawsuit.

"We look forward to working closely with the federal government and the school district to defeat this lawsuit at the earliest possible date - to make clear to each and every student in District 211 that they are welcome and will be treated humanely," Knight said.

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