How will suburban schools be affected by reversal of transgender guidelines?
The impact on suburban school districts that have recently addressed the issue of transgender students' access to bathrooms and locker rooms was unclear Wednesday after the Trump administration rolled back his predecessor's 2016 federal guidelines on the matter.
But advocates of privacy rights, who have championed the belief that access to gender-specific facilities should be determined by one's biological sex at birth, welcomed the move.
"I think it's a good thing because the federal government has no place telling local school districts what to do with their bathrooms and locker rooms," said Vicki Wilson, a Palatine resident and co-founder of the group D211 Parents for Privacy. "It's a move in the right direction."
In Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211, an agreement was reached with the departments of Education and Justice in late 2015 allowing one transgender student limited access to a girls locker room, in accordance with the student's self-identified gender.
The agreement was based on a compromise offered by District 211, which was threatened with the annual withholding of $6 million of federal Title IX funding for not allowing the student any access to the girls locker room at the time she filed a complaint with the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights.
But Wilson's group filed suit against the school district and the departments of Education and Justice in May 2016 for what its attorneys said was a misinterpretation of Title IX -- the federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in education. Later that month, the Obama administration issued its guidelines saying that transgender students should be allowed access to the facilities consistent with the gender they identify as.
Because District 211 and D211 Parents for Privacy are engaged in litigation over an agreement reached before the federal guidelines existed, Wilson said she couldn't say what affect eliminating those guidelines would have on the district.
"That I'm not sure of," she said.
District 211 Board President Mucia Burke said the active litigation prevents her and any other district official from commenting on the matter.
A slate of three school board candidates -- newcomers Ralph Bonatz, Katherine Jee Young David and Jean Forrest -- has been formed opposing District 211's current practice of allowing transgender students to use the bathrooms of their identified gender.
They are running in the April 4 election against incumbents Anna Klimkowicz and Robert LeFevre Jr. and former board member Ed Yung, who have not identified themselves as a slate.
Officials at Elgin Area School District U-46 -- the state's second-largest school district -- said any federal directive on transgender access from the Trump administration won't change the district's policy.
A majority of District U-46 board members agree with the administration's decision to provide locker room and restroom access to transgender students based on their gender identities.
The district has allowed, as of Sept. 6, a transgender middle school student to use the locker room and restroom corresponding with the student's gender identity at the same time as other students. The number of transgender students districtwide is unknown.
"We plan to keep our guidelines as written," district spokeswoman Mary Fergus said Wednesday.
At several heated school board meetings, some parents cited privacy and safety concerns and made religious arguments against allowing transgender students in locker rooms and bathrooms not corresponding to their biological sex.
Incumbent Cody Holt and newcomer Enoch Essendrop, two school board candidates who are opposed to allowing transgender access, have made it a campaign issue.
• Daily Herald staff writer Madhu Krishnamurthy contributed to this report.