Dist. 200 parents unhappy with transgender student accommodations

 
 
Updated 1/15/2016 8:46 PM
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A small group of parents and a DuPage legislator are unhappy they weren't told about a transgender student at a Wheaton Warrenville Unit District 200 school who has been granted access to a locker room designated for the opposite sex -- even though district officials say the access was granted in accordance with federal law.

Three people raised concerns about the situation at a school board meeting Wednesday. Some referenced an article published Dec. 14 by the Illinois Family Institute, a conservative Christian nonprofit group, that said the district allows a gender-dysphoric girl to use a curtained changing area in a boys locker room.

Wheaton resident David Norck said he contacted the administration regarding the circumstances mentioned in the article and was told parents were not notified about the situation.

"I must say I was stunned that parents did not have a say in that and were not informed that their minor children would be sharing a locker room with someone of the opposite sex. The parents have the right to know," he said. "There's no doubt this situation and the issue of gender dysphoria requires great wisdom, compassion and understanding, but it also requires transparency and protecting the right of bodily privacy of all students."

Superintendent Jeff Schuler confirmed Friday the district has a transgender student in one school who uses an opposite-sex locker room that contains private changing areas, but he didn't provide further details about the student or the school.

"We work hard to make sure the needs of all students are addressed," he said. "We don't share all those plans with every parent."

But District 200 parent Harold Lonks said he believes the district should notify parents at any school where a transgender student is receiving special accommodations. He requested a policy be passed by the board "to deal with this issue."

While the district does not have a policy laying out how exactly it should handle transgender student requests, Schuler said it "does certainly have a policy in place that we comply with all Title IX legal requirements (prohibiting sex discrimination)."

State Rep. Jeanne Ives said she was dismayed that the decision to accommodate the student was done by administrators only, "with no knowledge of the board and no knowledge of the parents or the residents that really run the schools."

"I think it's imperative that you guys come together as a board and address this immediately," she said, adding that legislation will be presented this month that would allow schools to segregate based on biological sex at birth, while still complying with Title IX requirements.

Schuler, however, said "the board is certainly aware of decisions that we are making."

"Our current approach is to address student needs individually, on a case-by-case basis, with the team at the buildings," he said.

Legal counsel provides guidance and support when necessary, he said, to "make sure what we're doing is the right thing for students and we're complying with all legal requirements and regulations."

The transgender controversy at Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211, he said, "affirmed that our practice is the one we'll continue to follow."

District 211 refused to allow a transgender student who filed a federal complaint access to a girls locker room at Fremd High School, despite an order from the U.S. Department of Education to follow Title IX requirements. The two parties came to an agreement late last year to allow the student access to a locker room with a separate changing area.

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