Federal judge denies injunction in District 211 transgender lawsuit

A federal judge has denied a residents group's request for a court order blocking a transgender student's limited use of a girls locker room at Fremd High School in Palatine.

Although the student, identified as "Student A" in court documents, has since graduated Fremd, her representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois praised Judge Jorge Alonso's decision.

"Throughout this litigation, one thing remains clear. The groups who filed this case remain unable to demonstrate any harm to their clients from sharing restrooms and locker rooms with students who they perceive as different," said John Knight, director of the ACLU of Illinois' LGBTQ Project. "The plaintiffs' fearmongering and persistent refusal to respect the core gender of these students cannot change the simple fact that there is no legal justification for requiring District 211 to separate and stigmatize transgender students because of who they are."

District 211 reached an agreement with the federal government in 2015 allowing "Student A" to use the locker room but change in a privacy stall. That agreement expired with her graduation.

But granting the injunction would have set a precedent affecting other transgender students offered similar use of locker rooms in Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211, said Gary McCaleb, senior counsel of Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom.

McCaleb's organization is providing free legal representation to Students and Parents For Privacy, the group that sued Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 in 2016 to block Student A's use of the girls locker room. Student A was born male but identifies as female.

"It's not over. We will not rest until the privacy rights, dignity and well-being of all students are protected equally," Students and Parents for Privacy posted on its Facebook page in response to Alonso's ruling.

McCaleb questioned Alonso's citing of the prior case Whitaker v. Kenosha Unified Sch. Dist. No. 1 Bd. of Education as a precedent for his decision because the plaintiffs in the District 211 case are claiming actual harm.

"We're not arguing third-person rights in the abstract," McCaleb said. "We have over 50 families. We have the real privacy violation."

McCaleb said Students and Parents for Privacy is considering an appeal.

In his denial of the organization's request for an injunction, Alonso cited the availability of privacy stalls for all students in the locker rooms as a mitigating factor.

"This case does not involve the forced or extreme invasions of privacy that the courts addressed in the cases cited by plaintiffs," Alonso wrote in his decision. "Further, the restrooms at issue here have privacy stalls that can be used by students seeking an additional layer of privacy, and single-use facilities are also available upon request. Given these protections, there is no meaningful risk that a student's unclothed body need be seen by any other person."

Alonso also cites Student A's graduation, changes in federal guidance on transgender students and the lawsuit's dismissing of the Department of Education and Department of Justice as defendants among the significant developments that have occurred while the lawsuit has been pending.

District 211 also is a defendant in a state lawsuit filed in November by transgender student Nova Maday, who argues her use of the girls locker room at Palatine High School should not be confined to a privacy stall.

McCaleb said that case underscores what he believes to be the wrongfulness of District 211's practices.

"We say privacy begins at the locker room door or the bathroom door," McCaleb said. "It's an absurd position to say privacy only exists when you step inside the stall."

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