Federal defendants dropped from District 211 transgender lawsuit

 
 
Updated 7/10/2017 4:27 PM
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  • The plaintiffs in the Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 lawsuit over transgender access to a locker rooms and bathrooms have dropped the U.S. departments of education and justice from the case.

      The plaintiffs in the Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 lawsuit over transgender access to a locker rooms and bathrooms have dropped the U.S. departments of education and justice from the case. Eric Peterson | Staff Photographer

The plaintiffs suing Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 over transgender students' access to bathrooms and locker rooms have dropped the U.S. departments of education and justice as defendants in the case.

It was an agreement between the federal agencies and District 211 that granted a transgender student limited access to a girls locker room at Fremd High School from January 2016 until her graduation in May.

The now former student was born male but identifies as female.

Gary McCaleb, senior counsel for the Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom, said his firm dropped the federal departments as defendants because they rescinded Obama-era guidelines on accommodating transgender students and formally terminated the agreement with District 211.

"We got all the relief we had asked for," said McCaleb, whose firm represents the plaintiffs -- a citizens group called District 211 Students and Parents for Privacy.

McCaleb said the lawsuit is more focused on the future policies and practices of the school district, which are at odds with his clients' wishes.

He said the federal government in the fall of 2015 pressured District 211 into the agreement by threatening to withhold millions of dollars in funding under Title IX, the law that prohibits sex discrimination in public education.

At that time, the federal government's position was that District 211 was discriminating against the transgender student by offering her only an isolated changing area.

A compromise allowed the student access to the girls locker room, but only if she used a privacy stall within. Several stalls were put in so that any student who wanted additional privacy could use one.

"Unequivocally, the federal government were the bullies, threatening funding," McCaleb said. "But it was the school district's decision to knuckle under that puts the responsibility on them. If they change their minds, we would consider that. We're not unreasonable."

District 211 officials declined to comment due to the ongoing litigation.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, which represents the former student and some current transgender students in District 211, said it believes Title IX obligates the school district to protect its clients.

"What is troubling and what is a shame is that we have a Department of Education and a Department of Justice that have told a certain segment of students in our country that they don't deserve protection," ACLU spokesman Ed Yohnka said.

The principles of the case remain exactly the same even without the two federal departments as co-defendants, he said.

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