Letter urges District 211 to allow all transgender students full access
A group of 29 parents and students from Palatine-Schaumburg Township High School District 211 has written an open letter urging that the district grant permission for all students to use the bathroom and locker room consistent with their gender identity.
The letter, released through the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, asks friends and neighbors to be "respectful of all viewpoints" -- including people who are transgender.
The ACLU is representing a District 211 student, Student A, who was born biologically male but identifies as female. An agreement allows Student A access to the girls locker room as long as she uses a private changing stall, but she has stopped changing in the locker room due to the attention from a lawsuit filed against the district and false and misleading claims made by opponents, according to the ACLU.
The 29 parents and students seek full locker room access for transgender students, rather than requiring them to use a private changing area. They also call on District 211 to allow students access to the bathrooms consistent with their gender identity, rather than asking transgender students to use separate facilities.
"Such a policy can send a signal to other students of intolerance and fear, suggesting that transgender students are different and should be shunned or avoided, and increases the chance that transgender students and other vulnerable students will be bullied or harassed in and out of school," the letter says.
A group of parents and students who oppose the policy for Student A filed a federal lawsuit against District 211 in April, arguing it violates the civil rights of other students. The group also claims the policy exposes students to "humiliation, anxiety, intimidation, fear, apprehension, stress."
Student A, her family, two other transgender students and their families, and the Illinois Safe School Alliance, an advocacy group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students, filed a motion in May asking to be a party to the federal lawsuit.
Supporters of the open letter acknowledge that some District 211 students and parents have expressed fear about granting bathroom and locker room access to transgender students. But integrating transgender students into all aspects of student life enhances the educational environment and teaches students to be accepting of people who are not like them, writers of the letter say.
"We believe that a majority of students in the District want transgender students to be treated fairly and would like District's policies to reflect their views and serve as a model for the rest of our community," the letter says.
"We respect anyone who has legitimate privacy concerns and urge the District to make alternative, private settings available to these individuals, rather than force students who are transgender out of communal space."
Student A's mother argued in May that her daughter does not pose a threat by using the locker room and bathroom that match her identity.
Jake Lytle, a 2016 graduate from District 211, signed the letter and says the district has been represented for too long by people who are not tolerant of transgender students.
"We felt a need to speak out for inclusion and respect -- even as this case moves forward," Lytle said.
The letter also notes that in other schools where transgender students are allowed in bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity, other students have quickly adapted.