District 211: We're best suited to protect students' privacy
Religious groups challenge transgender locker room deal in court
Lawyers for Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 told a judge Monday that district officials -- not outside interest groups or the federal judiciary -- are best-suited to protect the privacy of their students when it comes to a transgender classmate's use of a girls locker room.
The argument came as District 211 and a pair of religious freedom organizations faced off in U.S. District Court in Chicago over the district's compromise with the U.S. Department of Education that allows a transgender student limited access to a girls locker room at her school.
Arguing the deal violates the civil and privacy rights of other students, the Alliance Defending Freedom and the Thomas More Society sued district in May on behalf of the local organization District 211 Students and Parents for Privacy, as well as 13 unnamed students.
They went to court Monday seeking a preliminary injunction to bar the transgender student from the girls locker room until a federal court makes a final determination on the validity of the district's policy.
The plaintiffs argued the Department of Education is misinterpreting Title IX -- the federal law barring sex discrimination in education -- by applying it to gender identity. The law, they argued, treats sex as an objective, binary status, not a subjective psychological condition.
Although classes began Monday in District 211, Magistrate Judge Jeffrey T. Gilbert said he would not issue an immediate ruling on the preliminary injunction. Instead, he will make a recommendation, which he promised would be "a product of careful thought," to District Court Judge Jorge Alonso, who's presiding over the lawsuit.
District 211 struck the deal with federal authorities late last year after the student, who was born biologically male but identifies as female, filed a complaint seeking unrestricted access to a girls locker room.
Under the agreement, the student can use the girls locker room as long as she always changes in a private stall. Private stalls also are available to other girls using the locker room.
The deal applies only to the one student and is set to expire when she graduates.
Gilbert began Monday's hearing saying he recognizes that hotly contested issues were at play in the case, but he informed both sides that he would be referring to the student with female pronouns.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, which represents the transgender student, participated in the case on the district's side.
ACLU representative John Knight said the organization represents an another transgender student -- born female but identifying as male -- who began classes in District 211 as a freshman Monday.
Knight said that student has applied for the same type of locker room access as the transgender girl the ACLU represents. District 211 representatives Monday said that they could not comment on that matter.