Editorial: With transgender decision made, time for understanding in District 211

 
The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Posted12/11/2015 1:00 AM
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  • District 211 Superintendent Daniel Cates and school board President Mucia Burke listen this week to a speaker regarding a transgender student's access to locker rooms.

      District 211 Superintendent Daniel Cates and school board President Mucia Burke listen this week to a speaker regarding a transgender student's access to locker rooms. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

It takes real courage for an 8th grade student to come back to school after summer break as a different gender.

And it takes parental love to recognize that the transition is one that is right for their child and to fight for their child's basic rights.

Courage and love. Those are the terms we should be speaking of when talking of the family at the center of the Palatine-Schaumburg Township High School District 211 controversy over locker-room access to transgender students.

And now that a compromise has been agreed to by the district and the federal Office for Civil Rights, it's important that school officials, parents, students and community members understand there is a real person at the heart of this matter. And that her gender identity is not one that should be debated.

Congratulations to the students who recognize this and spoke up for Student A, as she was referred to, during this process. When we first wrote about this issue, we said other students would help bring understanding -- they get it and are willing to stand up for their fellow students. It's a different world today. Many adults would do well to spend some time grasping that concept and the fact that this student just wants to live life as she knows she is and as we, as a community, must accept. Debate the details of access if you must. But not the basic fact that this is a girl, no matter her anatomy.

As with any compromise, this one on access doesn't please everyone on any side. The student is being required to change behind privacy curtains -- a requirement that in the end she most likely would have done voluntarily. And we're not sure why the district was adamant that this policy change will only affect this one student as it is more than likely to come up again.

Also, it's unfortunate that the school board was not unanimous in approving this compromise. Once the district put in place its stipulations, every board member should have backed this conclusion rather than fighting any access.

Moving forward, it's incumbent on school officials to assure this student and others like her be treated with respect and given a discrimination-free environment at school so she can reach her true potential.

"This is a difficult concept to grasp," the student's mother said in a blog post last month that bears repeating. "However, just because something is difficult to understand, does not mean we should mock it or deny its existence."

Superintendent Dan Cates has repeatedly said the district "is responsive to the needs of its transgendered students, dealing sensitively and effectively with the challenges they face." With the debate over access done, we'd like to see the district put those conciliatory words into some form of action.

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