Where Fremont District 79 candidates stand on transgender bathroom access
The candidates for seats on the Fremont District 79 board of education have slightly different stances on whether transgender students should be allowed to use the bathrooms and locker rooms of their choice.
Four candidates are fine with that concept, while one said he isn't sure. The sixth candidate said each instance should be decided individually.
Three seats with 4-year terms are at stake in the April 2 election. The candidates are incumbents Gabriela Whipple, Agnieszka "Aga" Macoch and Michael Jandes; and challengers Ryan Wollberg, Ronald J. Swartz and Dave Whitson.
Bathroom usage by transgender students hasn't been an issue at any of the three Fremont District 79 schools, but it has sparked controversy elsewhere in the suburbs.
The candidates were asked about it and other issues in interviews with the Daily Herald.
Whipple, a Hawthorn Woods resident who joined the board in 2014, supports transgender students using the bathrooms and locker rooms of their choice. But she also noted the school board needs to craft a policy that ensures "all students feel safe."
Macoch, a Round Lake resident, said she's thought about the issue even thought it's never come before the board for debate. Bathrooms for boys and girls have stalls for privacy, she noted, and she doesn't think letting students choose which bathrooms they use would be a problem -- as long as no one abuses the privilege.
"You just walk in, close your stall and that's that," said Macoch, who was appointed to the board in 2017.
Whitson, a Wauconda resident who's a health teacher and athletic coach at Mundelein High School, predicted transgender bathroom rights is going to be a big issue for schools. He said a transgender student on the Mundelein High track team is allowed to change in a private area of the boys' locker room, and he supported that plan.
Students need to feel that they're "in a safe and equitable environment," Whitson said, and they shouldn't be judged on gender.
Swartz, a semiretired Grayslake resident, said he'd support letting transgender students use the bathrooms of their choice. But before crafting a policy, Swartz said he'd like to confer with a child psychologist about the issue. He'd also like to hear from the community.
Jandes, a Round Lake resident who's been on the board since 2013, admitted he didn't know how he stood on the issue. He noted that the schools have private bathrooms that can be used be people of any gender, and that they're sought after.
Jandes said the issue of transgender students' bathroom usage is "an adult issue" that kids don't really discuss.
Wollberg, a Wauconda resident, said he doesn't think there's one answer to the question.
"Each child must be looked at (on) an individual basis," said Wollberg, who's the principal at Woodland Elementary School West in Gages Lake. "To make a blanket statement ... without hearing the personal stories pertaining to each child is unfair to our students."
District 79 is based in unincorporated Lake County near Mundelein. It serves more than 2,200 students from Mundelein, Wauconda, Hawthorn Woods, Grayslake, Round Lake, Long Grove, Libertyville and unincorporated areas.