Judge dismisses portion of District 211 transgender suit

A federal judge has dismissed portions of a lawsuit alleging Palatine Schaumburg High School District 211 violated students' rights by allowing a transgender student limited access to the locker room of her choice, but left other parts of the litigation intact and on track for a potential trial.

The split decision from U.S. District Court Judge Jorge Alonso throws out two of five counts in the lawsuit.

One of those counts alleged the district violated students' right to bodily privacy by requiring girls to potentially expose themselves to the transgender student - born biologically male but identifying as female - or that student being exposed to them. Alonso ruled there is no such right in the U.S. Constitution or Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The judge also dismissed a count alleging the district policy violates parents' right to direct the education of their children. The plaintiffs, an organization known as Students and Parents for Privacy, argued the policy interferes with parents' ability to teach their children modesty.

"The (district) policy, however, does not prevent SPP parents from teaching their children modesty," Alonso wrote. "To be sure, the compelled affirmation policy might undercut that teaching, but plaintiffs have cited no case that suggests the right to direct education includes a right not to have their teachings undermined by public school (beyond, of course, the right to choose private school instead)."

The counts left standing allege the policy violates Title IX regulations against sexual harassment; violates the Illinois Religious Freedom Restoration Act; and violates students' First Amendment right to free exercise of religion.

The judge notes his ruling does not mean the plaintiffs should prevail on those allegations, but that there is a plausible claim that can move forward.

Students and Parents for Privacy sued District 211 in 2016, after school officials brokered a deal with the U.S. Department of Education that allowed a student known in documents as Student A limited access to girls locker rooms at Fremd High School. Student A graduated from Fremd in 2017.

District 211 issued a written statement Tuesday saying the district would "continue to defend our practices that affirm and support the identity of all our students."

Gary McCaleb, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, which is legally representing Students and Parents for Privacy, said he believes the Title IX claim on sexual harassment is sound.

"If we win under Title IX, we should get all the relief we need," McCaleb said.

He added he believes everyone - and especially adolescent high school students - have a right to bodily privacy.

The lawsuit, when filed, asked federal courts to make District 211 reverse its practice of permitting transgender students limited access to the locker rooms of the gender with which they identify, and rule that the Department of Education misinterpreted Title IX to cover gender identity.

No trial date for the case has been set. A status hearing is scheduled April 18.

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