District 211 considering unrestricted locker-room access for transgender students
The Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 board of education will consider ending the district's policy requiring transgender students to use privacy stalls in locker rooms at the district's five schools.
Board members will meet to discuss the possible change at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 19. The meeting will take place at Palatine High School, 1111 N. Rohlwing Road in Palatine, in anticipation of a large audience.
"We think there's a possibility of that," Superintendent Dan Cates said.
The topic is expected to be revisited at the board's Oct. 17 meeting, the earliest any change could be approved.
The announcement of the possible change came just after a court hearing Thursday afternoon on District 211's motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a former student who is transgender. The judge denied that motion and set another hearing date on the case.
Cates emphasized that the discussion was planned before Thursday's ruling.
"We have been communicating with the board surrounding the policies of other districts and what we are learning through our students and community over the summer, so that the board could fully consider our proposed policy next week and again in October," Cates said.
Nova Maday sued the district in state court in November 2017, arguing that the policy that required her to use privacy stalls while a student at Palatine High School is discriminatory. She graduated in 2018.
Maday, who was born male but identifies as female, said she had been told by classmates that no one gets completely undressed or showers for gym class but admitted she had no firsthand knowledge because she never used the locker room under the district's policy.
She reacted to District 211's announcement with enthusiasm Thursday.
"It's taken a bit of time to process," Maday said. "Nothing about this isn't good news. It's what I've been fighting for since day one."
The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois has been representing Maday in her lawsuit. Spokesman Ed Yohnka credited the proposed change in District 211 to the efforts of Maday and an earlier transgender student publicly known as Student A, who had filed the federal complaint against the district in 2015.
"At long last, it's really just time," Yohnka said. "It took a group of very courageous students to make this happen. Nova always wanted the policy to change for future students."
Cates released a statement to parents Thursday afternoon explaining the potential change and the current practice's history. It was enacted four years ago as a compromise, after Student A's complaint of being barred from the locker room of her choice.
"The (U.S. Office for Civil Rights) approved this practice and the district has successfully implemented it for numerous students over the past four years," Cates wrote.
Since then, the district was sued by both Maday and the citizens group Students and Parents for Privacy, which argued the policy violates the rights of non-transgender students.
"And in those four years, understanding and acceptance of transgender identity have advanced -- societally and in our immediate communities -- for the better," Cates said. "In our district and countless others, students, families and staff honor, respect and celebrate all manifestations of unique differences characteristic of the human condition. Our proposed district policy reflects these advancements."
Students and Parents for Privacy dropped its federal lawsuit in April, weeks after a judge dismissed portions of it, including counts alleging the district violated other students' rights to bodily privacy and their parents' rights to direct their education.
A representative of Students and Parents for Privacy could not be immediately reached for comment Thursday.
Asked whether the district would expect another lawsuit if the administration's recommendation was adopted, Cates said, "We hope not, but we recognize that people have differing views and we anticipate hearing different perspectives."
District 211 includes Schaumburg, Conant, Hoffman Estates, Fremd and Palatine high schools.
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