After 4 years of debate, District 211 could vote on transgender access

The Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 board of education is expected to vote Thursday on a proposal to lift locker room restrictions on transgender students, culminating four years of the district being at the center of nationwide debate of the issue.

A closed session of the board is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. at Fremd High School, 1000 S. Quentin Road in Palatine, followed by open session and public comment at 7:30 p.m.

Events leading up to Thursday's potential vote began in the fall of 2015, when the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights declared District 211 violated the anti-discriminatory Title IX law by denying a transgender student identifying as female unrestricted access to the girls' locker room at Fremd.

That student, identified only as Student A, had earlier filed a federal complaint about being barred from the locker room.

The Office for Civil Rights issued a letter informing District 211 it had 30 days to conform with the office's understanding of Title IX requirements or face enforcement action. That action, officials said, could cost District 211 some or all of its federal Title IX funding - which amounted to $6 million in 2014.

But the district negotiated a compromise under which transgender students currently are required to use private stalls placed in locker rooms. The stalls are optional for other students.

In May 2016, the citizens groups Students and Parents for Privacy filed a federal lawsuit arguing the compromise went too far and was based on a wrong interpretation of Title IX. The group dropped its lawsuit in April 2019, weeks after a judge dismissed portions of it.

In November 2017, a transgender student named Nova Maday - then a senior at Palatine High School - filed a state lawsuit against the district arguing that the compromise remained discriminatory.

District 211 Superintendent Dan Cates in September proposed that the district lift its requirement that transgender students use the private changing stalls.

The District 211 board has had three meetings since, during which its members have discussed the proposal to varying degrees and heard from members of the public on both sides of the debate.

The board's meeting Thursday has long been identified as the earliest one at which a vote could be called.

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