June 15, 2016 8:00 am

District 211 parents and students issue open letter calling for inclusion and fair treatment of students who are transgender

CHICAGO – Calling on their friends and neighbors to be “respectful of all viewpoints,” a group of parents and students from Chicago suburban school District 211 today released an open letter supporting the ability of all students in the district – including students who are transgender – to use the restroom and locker room that matches their gender identity. The District has been at the center of an on-going public discussion about transgender students since District 211 officials revealed last October that one student, known as Student A to protect her anonymity, had filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education seeking to use the locker room appropriate to her gender.  The Department ultimately agreed with Student A, after which a group of parents and students filed a federal lawsuit.

“Our daughters will soon be students in District 211,” said Tracey Salvatore, one of the parents who signed the letter. “I – and the other parents who signed this letter – want all students to experience a school environment that celebrates diversity, and recognize that honoring the humanity and dignity of each student enriches the education of all students.”

The letter today was issued through the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, which has represented Student A since her claim was filed with the Department of Education and who recently filed a motion to intervene in the federal lawsuit on behalf of Student A and two transgender students who will soon be attending District 211 schools as well as the Illinois Alliance for Safe Schools.  The nearly 30 parents and students who signed the letter are drawn from the more than a hundred students and families that offered to be part of the intervention motion. They wanted to express their strong support for a transgender-inclusive policy in their home District.

“For too long, our schools and the District has been represented to the wider public only by those voices calling for intolerance and playing to the fear of others,” said Jake Lytle, a 2016 graduate from District 211 and one of the endorsers of the letter.  “We felt a need to speak out for inclusion and respect – even as this case moves forward.”

The letter calls on District 211 not only to vigorously defend the agreement reached with the Department of Education on behalf of Student A, but to put into place a policy clarifying that “all transgender students may use the locker rooms consistent with their gender identity.”  The group also addresses the concerns that some students and parents, including those filing the lawsuit, have expressed regarding transgender students using the restrooms and locker rooms at District 211.  Rather than condemning the students and parents who have shared their discomfort, the letter urges District 211 officials to continue to provide education and information to these students and the wider District 211 community.  The letter notes that in many schools where inclusive and welcoming policies have been adopted, students quickly adapt and welcome their fellow students.

The letter concludes by noting that all the signers have “opted to make this community our home because it reflected the type of values and place where we could raise our children with open minds and open hearts, prepared to meet and accept a diverse society. Together we can achieve that dream while being respectful of all viewpoints.”

#  #  #