District 211 not changing transgender agreement after federal directive
The new federal directive broadening the rights of transgender students in U.S. public schools will not immediately affect an existing agreement in Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 or the lawsuit recently filed against it.
Neither District 211 nor the U.S. Department of Education would comment Friday on how the directive might affect the 211/DOE agreement that permits a transgender Fremd High School student born with male anatomy to use a private changing area in the girls locker room.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which represented the Fremd student in her former dispute with District 211, said Friday it will not immediately use the Obama administration directive to push District 211 into letting her have greater access to the girls locker room.
The federal directive says transgender public school students must be allowed to use the bathrooms and locker rooms of the gender they identify with. District 211, however, lets the student into the girls locker room only if she uses a private changing area and shower.
ACLU spokesman Ed Yohnka said that for the moment, the bigger concern is the lawsuit filed against District 211 and the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice.
Religious freedom advocates Alliance Defending Freedom and the Thomas More Society filed the suit last week, arguing that allowing a biological male into a girls locker room amounts to harassment of the other girls.
Despite the ACLU's original position that the Fremd student should have unrestricted access to the girls locker room, Yohnka said "this isn't the forum" to push that now, adding the ACLU will stand with District 211 and the federal government against the lawsuit.
Apart from a general statement on the Obama directive by District 211 Superintendent Dan Cates, both the school district and Department of Education declined specific comment on how the directive might affect District 211's situation.
Alliance Defending Freedom senior counsel Jeremy Tedesco sent out a written statement saying the Obama administration's new guidelines "simply reinforce what has been abundantly clear -- that it has a political goal of forcing women to share restrooms and locker rooms with men across the nation and will spread falsehoods about federal law to achieve its aims."
"This is precisely why we have filed two federal lawsuits, one in Illinois and one in North Carolina, on behalf of parents and students who are understandably concerned about their children."
The lawsuits argue that the federal government is misinterpreting the Title IX law prohibiting sex discrimination and incorrectly extending it to gender identity.
Thomas More Society attorneys told members of Students and Parents for Privacy -- which opposes the agreement between District 211 and the Department of Education -- the Obama administration lacks the legal backing or authority to enforce the new guidelines.
Yohnka, however, said the federal directive not only strengthens District 211's position against the lawsuit but solves a conundrum for school districts across the nation.
"I think this gives more heft and weight to our argument," he said. "It makes life so much easier for a superintendent or school board trying to figure out what to do. It's a road map."