Supreme Court transgender case may set precedent for District 211

 
 
Updated 11/1/2016 5:24 PM
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  • Plaintiffs and defendants in a Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 transgender lawsuit think the Supreme Court's hearing of a similar Virginia case could determine the outcome of theirs too.

      Plaintiffs and defendants in a Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 transgender lawsuit think the Supreme Court's hearing of a similar Virginia case could determine the outcome of theirs too. Eric Peterson | Staff Photographer

Both sides of a lawsuit involving transgender students' access to locker rooms and restrooms in Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 say the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to hear a similar case out of Virginia might determine the outcome of their dispute.

In fact, representatives of Alliance Defending Freedom and the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois said the District 211 lawsuit could be put on hold until after the Supreme Court rules next year on Gavin Grimm v. Gloucester County Public School Board.

The case revolves around whether a student born female but who identifies as male should be allowed access to the boys bathroom at school.

Gary McCaleb, senior counsel for ADF, said the only disagreement between the parties in the District 211 case might be where to leave the dispute before putting it on hold.

Last month, a magistrate judge issued an 82-page recommendation against a group called District 211 Parents for Privacy's request for injunction that would overturn District 211's policy allowing a transgender student at Fremd High School in Palatine limited access to a girls locker room. The ADF, which represents Parents for Privacy, filed an objection to that recommendation Tuesday, McCaleb said.

While there are some differences between the Virginia litigation and the District 211 dispute, both the ADF and ACLU believe the Supreme Court's ruling would be relevant to their case. The ACLU represents the transgender Fremd student.

In the Virginia case, a school board is seeking to bar a transgender student from a boys bathroom, while District 211 is seeking to allow the transgender student use of a girls locker room.

McCaleb said the key arguments in both cases are the same -- whether sex and gender identity are the same thing under the Title IX law prohibiting discrimination, and whether the courts or other federal agencies have the authority to determine that.

ADF spokesman Bob Trent said the Supreme Court could provide valuable direction on transgender rights.

"I think both sides should be grateful to the Supreme Court to decide this issue," he said.

ACLU of Illinois spokesman Ed Yohnka said the Virginia case is as good as any he's come across in terms of helping the Supreme Court determine a direction on transgender rights, particularly because it involves an individual student experiencing discrimination rather than general policy.

One of the big questions Yohnka sees is whether eight or nine Supreme Court justices will be hearing the case. The court has been short one member since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February.

McCaleb said his best guess for the time frame of the Virginia case is that the Supreme Court would hear arguments in February and rule in June.

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