Mundelein High board candidates disagree on transgender student rights

  • Five candidates are running for Mundelein High School District 120 board seats. Upper from left: Sara Davalos, Tami Forman and Laura Mellon. Lower from left: Thomas F. Ouimet and Laura Vogt.

    Five candidates are running for Mundelein High School District 120 board seats. Upper from left: Sara Davalos, Tami Forman and Laura Mellon. Lower from left: Thomas F. Ouimet and Laura Vogt.

 
 
Updated 3/9/2017 6:16 AM

Nearly all the candidates running for seats on the Mundelein High School District 120 board support the school's policy allowing transgender students to use bathrooms or locker rooms matching their gender identities.

One doesn't -- incumbent Sara Davalos.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"I think boys should be boys and girls should be girls and that's it," she said.

Davalos agrees with President Donald Trump's recent decision to end federal protections for transgender students who wish to use the facilities of their choice.

Five candidates are running for four seats on the board: Davalos, fellow incumbents Tami Forman and Laura Mellon, Diamond Lake District 76 board member Laura Vogt, and political newcomer Thomas F. Ouimet.

All four seats carry 4-year terms.

The Daily Herald asked the candidates about transgender student rights and other issues ahead of the April 4 election.

Transgender students' access to locker rooms and bathrooms has been a debate across the nation. Locally, several suburban school districts have adopted policies allowing students to use the facilities of their choice without controversy, including Mundelein High School. But the issue led to a legal fight in Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211.

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At Mundelein, every student can use bathrooms that correspond to their gender identity, regardless of the teen's sex at birth, Superintendent Kevin Myers said. Students who request increased privacy are given access to a reasonable alternative, such as a private bathroom or changing area.

Davalos, who was appointed to the board in November, adamantly opposes transgender students using the locker rooms or bathrooms matching their gender identities.

"The school is (there) to provide everybody an academic education ... not to give choices," Davalos said. Students should use bathrooms or locker rooms that match the genders on their birth certificates, she said.

Davalos also opposes federal involvement, saying states should decide the matter.

Mellon strongly supports the rights of transgender students to use the locker rooms of their choice, and disagrees with Trump's order rescinding federal protection for those students.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"No matter what issue it is, we need to do what we can to support every student (in) what they have to deal with, whether it's a disability (or) a language issue or a struggling student," Mellon said. "Whatever they need, they should be supported."

Vogt sides with Mellon, saying it's a matter of "empathy for others." Schools should ensure all students feel safe and comfortable in locker rooms and bathrooms, Vogt said.

Ouimet supports the school's policy, too. Providing a separate bathroom or changing area for students who don't want to change with a transgender student is a good solution, he said.

"There's nothing wrong with having a third room," he said. "I don't believe you should force somebody to use a certain locker room."

Forman also supports the school's policy. She says it's a federal civil rights issue.

Now that Trump has acted, Forman said she hopes Gov. Bruce Rauner lets school boards create policies for students instead of leaving it to the General Assembly.

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