With new transgender policy approved, District 211 turns to locker-room privacy requests

As Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 prepares to grant transgender students unrestricted access to locker rooms Jan. 7, a residents group opposed to the new policy plans to take advantage of additional privacy measures the district has promised to make available on request.

A letter from Superintendent Dan Cates was emailed Friday morning to families of students explaining the implementation of the new policy and their rights under it.

"The privacy areas in our locker rooms will remain in place for any and all students who wish to use them," Cates wrote. "Parents and students who request additional privacy may seek assistance from the student's guidance counselor to request one of several accommodations.

"Our locker rooms are large areas, and we can easily change the location of a student's locker. Any student may use one of numerous private changing areas. If desired, a student may also request a locker in a separate, different locker room."

Members of the residents group D211 Parents for Privacy attended Thursday's board of education meeting with ready-made privacy request forms for students seeking the extra accommodation. Blanks were provided for the names of the parent or guardian, student and school.

The forms state: "Upon adoption of policy Equal Educational Opportunities (JAA), I understand it is my responsibility to make this request in writing. This request is being made even if there is not currently a member of the opposite biological sex in the same facility. This request requires a separate and secure facility with equal amenities, and does not single out my child for harassment or additional travel time to classes."

Palatine resident Vicki Wilson, one of the founders of D211 Parents for Privacy, characterized the provided changing stalls in the locker rooms as inadequate for their numbers and maintained some students wishing to use them were ridiculed by classmates.

She said Friday that in the past four years, the district should have chosen to ditch communal locker rooms in favor of going with privacy stalls exclusively, or provided communal male, female and coed locker rooms. Either choice would have been better than the policy District 211 has adopted, Wilson said.

D211 Parents for Privacy doesn't plan to track how many privacy request forms are submitted to the district by individual families, nor does it know how the district might accommodate them all, Wilson said

"They have a choice," she said. "Their choice last night was not to protect the privacy and dignity of all students. We are trying to salvage the privacy and dignity of all students by letting parents know they have a choice."

District 211 spokesman Tom Petersen described officials as very confident of the district's ability to fulfill any and all of the requests for additional privacy accommodations it receives.

The possibilities include, but aren't limited to, changing lockers within a locker room, moving to a separate restroom, and using the auxiliary locker rooms primarily used by extracurricular sports team but available during the school day.

Whatever individualized solution is provided will be the result of a discussion with the school staff of a student's particular concern with the student's current situation, Petersen said.

"We want to make sure we understand what their needs are," he said.

The new policy was delayed until the start of the second semester to allow time for all students and their families to adjust to it and request any additional accommodations, Petersen said.

The school board voted 5-2 Thursday to adopt the policy Cates proposed in September. Mark Cramer and Pete Dombrowski cast the dissenting votes. They also were the only supporters of Cramer's motion to postpone the decision until after an advisory referendum at the next election.

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  Julia Burca opposed the policy adopted at the Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211's board meeting Thursday at Fremd High School to grant transgender students unrestricted access to locker rooms. Mark Welsh/
  A crowd representing both sides of the debate spoke before the Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 board of education's 5-2 vote Thursday to grant transgender students unrestricted access to the locker rooms. Mark Welsh/
Members of the citizens group D211 Parents for Privacy attended Thursday's board of education meeting with ready-made privacy request forms for students in light of the district allowing transgender students unrestricted access to locker rooms.
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