Parents chastise, support U-46 board on transgender locker room issue

  • Morgan Pavelka of Elgin, a student at Providence Baptist College, quotes scripture on Monday while speaking against U-46's decision to allow transgender students locker room access.

    Morgan Pavelka of Elgin, a student at Providence Baptist College, quotes scripture on Monday while speaking against U-46's decision to allow transgender students locker room access. Madhu Krishnamurthy | Staff Photographer

  • The Elgin Area School District U-46 school board and CEO Tony Sanders listen to public comments at Monday night's meeting.

    The Elgin Area School District U-46 school board and CEO Tony Sanders listen to public comments at Monday night's meeting. Madhu Krishnamurthy | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 10/3/2016 10:04 AM
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story should have read Tracy Kelly of Streamwood read a statement from her 12-year-old daughter, Erinn, who attends Tefft Middle School in Streamwood.

The state's second-largest school district's move to allow locker room access to a transgender student took center stage again Monday night as dozens of people voiced concerns about the decision.

As of Sept. 6, Elgin Area School District U-46 has allowed a transgender middle-school student use of the locker room corresponding with the student's gender identity at the same time as other students. District practice previously had been to allow transgender students to change in the locker room of their choice when other students weren't present.

 

The scene Monday was akin to what occurred at the Sept. 12 school board meeting when dozens of people from within the district and some outsiders spoke in support of and against the allowance.

Parents spoke passionately -- many quoting Bible verses to condemn homosexuality -- against allowing transgender students access to locker rooms and restrooms based on gender identity because it would compromise student safety.

"The innocence of a child is easily trampled by adults who say they have good intentions but really do not or by adults who interfere in the lives of children out of misplaced guilt or hatred or by want of sexual perversion," said Brock Friedman of Hanover Park. "I think the district has erred grievously and needs to apologize for this mess they have created."

Brian Kenny of West Dundee said the school board should not be pandering to transgender students' wants but rather give them what they need.

"How many times will it take for a violation to occur before you change or say 'enough'?" he said. "You should be happy with what you are. This is how God made you. For anyone to say that a transgender is going to commit suicide because of discrimination, they are flat-out wrong."

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Those supporting the district's actions defended the rights of transgender students.

Tracy Kelly of Streamwood read a statement from her 12-year-old daughter, Erinn, who attends Tefft Middle School in Streamwood.

"It's absolutely disgusting that grown adults would say such horrible things to transgender people who are not in the room. ... They are still normal people and their sexual orientation should not matter to you. Judge not, lest you be judged. I have friends in the LGBTQ community, and it does not matter. And to say that they are an abomination to this world is disgusting."

Elgin High School senior Aidan Heydt, 17, of Bartlett, part of the school's Gifted and Talented Academy, said transgender students are protected by federal law and granting them rights won't infringe on others' safety. He added that studies show transgender students are more likely to be sexually abused or assaulted than their peers.

"Changing the rules for transgender people won't change assaulters," Heydt said. "Sex is a spectrum. It's not up for debate. Gender is a spectrum. It is usually very hard to tell who is trans and who is not. The bottom line is there's no way to enforce what you are trying to accomplish, and there's no reason to. Transgender people are not the issue here. If you have been paying attention, you would know that by now."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Several parents objected to the administration's handling of the issue by not informing them of the policy change upfront. The issue has been brewing for several weeks on Facebook since school board member Jeanette Ward outed the matter in a post saying the U-46 administration opted not to inform parents or the public.

District officials have said they were barred by federal and state law from releasing personal information about specific students and that the needs of each student are addressed on a case-by-case basis.

U-46 CEO Tony Sanders has defended the decision, saying the district will not change its policy of accommodating all students and having adult supervision in locker rooms. The administration also will develop guidelines for staff members on how to address transgender students' needs.

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