Editorial: Dist. 211 should find creative alternatives to transgender plan

  • District 211 Superintendent Dan Cates addresses a transgender student controversy over access to locker rooms.

      District 211 Superintendent Dan Cates addresses a transgender student controversy over access to locker rooms. Melissa Silverberg | Staff Photographer

 
The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Updated 10/15/2015 12:59 PM

The practice of high school students changing in the locker room has always been complicated for some students. Whether you feel you're too skinny or overweight or just too shy, the thought of being in an open locker room with your peers can be daunting.

So in many ways, the debate surrounding transgender students is not that unique. Finding a solution, however, has been problematic for Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

By choosing to require a transgender student to use a private locker room rather than a locker room specific to the gender with which the student identifies, the district is making the case that this student and those like her should be treated differently. And, by doing so, the district is in danger of losing $6 million in federal funds because it is refusing to comply with a U.S. Department of Education order to allow this female transgender student access to the girls' locker room.

Surely, there must be a better way to balance this student's rights with the privacy concerns of other students. One way is to provide stalls in both boys and girls locker rooms to afford privacy to any student who chooses to use them. Our guess is that they may be a popular choice.

We wonder why this is such a problem for District 211 to figure out when other districts, like neighboring Barrington Unit District 220, have managed to deal with the same issue without controversy.

We think District 220 Superintendent Brian Harris has a good grasp of the situation.

"Quite frankly, kids are really tolerant. Kids are amazing. This is not a kid issue. This is an adult issue," Harris told the Daily Herald's Melissa Silverberg. "This is just one of the many issues we work through to accommodate the needs of our students."

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He added that each case is handled administratively, not by the school board. And that students can choose where it is they change clothes.

That is exactly how the state of Massachusetts, which passed a gender identity nondiscrimination law in 2012, recommends dealing with this issue. And interestingly enough, they provided an example of how to deal with a girls locker room.

"In one high school, a transgender male-to-female student was given access to the female changing facility, but the student was uncomfortable using the female changing facility with other female students because there were no private changing areas within the facility. The principal examined the changing facility and determined that curtains could easily be put up along one side of a row of benches near the group lockers, providing private changing areas for any students who wished to use them."

A simple solution and the type of creative thinking District 211 should be doing before moving forward with its expensive and misguided approach.

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