District 211 grants transgender students unrestricted locker-room access

  • Nova Maday, right, celebrates with ACLU of Illinois spokesperson Ed Yohnka after the Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 board of education voted Thursday night at Fremd High School to allow transgender students unrestricted access to locker rooms.

      Nova Maday, right, celebrates with ACLU of Illinois spokesperson Ed Yohnka after the Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 board of education voted Thursday night at Fremd High School to allow transgender students unrestricted access to locker rooms. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Supporters Joe Serio and Paul Dombrowski, both of Palatine, celebrate the Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 board's 5-2 vote approving a policy to grant transgender students unrestricted access to locker rooms.

      Supporters Joe Serio and Paul Dombrowski, both of Palatine, celebrate the Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 board's 5-2 vote approving a policy to grant transgender students unrestricted access to locker rooms. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Nova Maday of Palatine, who is transgender, was overcome with joy Thursday after the Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 board approved a measure to grant transgender students unrestricted access to locker rooms.

      Nova Maday of Palatine, who is transgender, was overcome with joy Thursday after the Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 board approved a measure to grant transgender students unrestricted access to locker rooms. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • The line starts to form Thursday night for the Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 board meeting at Fremd High School. The school board lifted a restriction on transgender students' access to locker rooms.

      The line starts to form Thursday night for the Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 board meeting at Fremd High School. The school board lifted a restriction on transgender students' access to locker rooms. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Sarah Harrington of Hoffman Estates, who goes to a private school, sits among signs against allowing transgender students full access to locker rooms in District 211. The school board, which met Thursday night at Fremd High School in Palatine, granted access.

      Sarah Harrington of Hoffman Estates, who goes to a private school, sits among signs against allowing transgender students full access to locker rooms in District 211. The school board, which met Thursday night at Fremd High School in Palatine, granted access. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Joe Serio and Paul Dombrowski of Palatine support the measure allowing transgender students unrestricted use of locker rooms.

      Joe Serio and Paul Dombrowski of Palatine support the measure allowing transgender students unrestricted use of locker rooms. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Supporters of a policy to grant transgender students unrestricted access to locker rooms make their case at Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211's board of education meeting at Fremd High School.

      Supporters of a policy to grant transgender students unrestricted access to locker rooms make their case at Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211's board of education meeting at Fremd High School. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Emily Kaht, 29, of Woodstock walks away from the podium at the Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211's board of education meeting at Fremd High School.

      Emily Kaht, 29, of Woodstock walks away from the podium at the Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211's board of education meeting at Fremd High School. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • The board members and the audience have a moment of silence for the shooting victims out in California at the Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211's board of education meeting at Fremd High School earlier Thursday night.

      The board members and the audience have a moment of silence for the shooting victims out in California at the Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211's board of education meeting at Fremd High School earlier Thursday night. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 11/14/2019 10:49 PM

After addressing the controversial issue of transgender students' access to locker rooms in a few different ways over the past four years, Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 board members Thursday voted 5-2 to lift a requirement that those students use privacy stalls.

Board members Mark Cramer and Pete Dombrowski dissented. Earlier in the meeting, they were the only board members to vote for Cramer's motion to postpone the vote in favor of an advisory referendum in March.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Some board members said their votes were based on much individual research.

"I myself have been the subject of discrimination all my life," board member Ed Yung said. "I know what these people are fighting for."

While privacy stalls have been made available for all students in locker rooms at the district's five high schools, only transgender students have been required to use them. But when second semester classes begin a fter the holidays, no such rule will be in effect.

"Discrimination is never an acceptable compromise," board member Kim Cavill said.

Nova Maday, a transgender 2018 graduate of Palatine High School with a discrimination lawsuit pending against the district, said she hoped the decision would influence other districts but doesn't accomplish every improvement she's sought for transgender students. One example of what's not included, she said, is easing the process of getting one's named changed on a student ID.

"It's a great first step," said Maday, who was born male but identifies as female. "It's huge, and school districts all across the state and nation are watching."

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But Vicki Wilson, a fellow Palatine resident who co-founded the residents group Students and Parents for Privacy, called the new policy "a joke and a slap in the face."

"When you turn all intimate spaces coed, that's egregious," Wilson said.

She said among the ongoing problems the district is not addressing is that there aren't enough privacy stalls for every student to use each class period, while teens who do or try to use them are ridiculed.

Superintendent Dan Cates addressed the long-running public debate and the district's evolving response to the issue before the board members' discussion and vote.

"One of the biggest concerns we continue to hear is the idea that anyone can go in any locker room whenever they feel like it -- as if a different gender can be declared at will," Cates said. "That's not the way it works in District 211. Upon a request from the student's parent or guardian, a student's stated gender in the official school record establishes the student's gender for access to gender-specific facilities."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

He added that there has been no disruption caused by transgender and gender non-conforming students' sharing locker rooms with other students since the current practice was established nearly four years ago. But some opponents of the policy challenged his claim.

The attainment of transgender students' unrestricted access to locker rooms was the goal of the federal complaint in 2015 of a Fremd High School student who had been required to use a private space outside the girls' locker room to change for gym class.

"Student A," as that now-former student continues to be called, was born male but identifies as female.

After District 211's practice was deemed to be in violation of federal anti-discrimination requirements, the district negotiated the arrangement requiring transgender students to use privacy stalls.

That compromise was first challenged by a federal lawsuit filed in May 2016 by Students and Parents for Privacy, arguing that it went too far in violating the privacy rights of other students. The compromise was further challenged in November 2017 by Maday's state lawsuit, arguing that it maintained the discrimination against transgender students that was the basis of Student A's original complaint.

One of the key points of debate over the past four years was whether students still completely undressed in high school locker rooms. Advocates for transgender students' unrestricted access said no, while members and supporters of Students and Parents for Privacy said yes.

Students and Parents for Privacy dropped its lawsuit this April after a judge dismissed portions of it. But members of the group became more vocal again in September after Cates proposed unrestricted access for transgender students.

Members of the public on both sides of the issue have spoken at the last four board meetings. Among the 25 people randomly chosen to speak Thursday, 15 expressed support for the policy and 10 were opposed.

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