WATERLOO – Over the course of several months, a handful of members of the public have spoken out at meetings of the Waterloo Schools Board of Education urging the district to rescind its policy allowing all students, including those who are transgender, to use the restrooms consistent with their gender identity. This policy aligns with the requirements of the Illinois Human Rights Act and applies to all public schools in Illinois. At a meeting on Monday evening, July 17th, a number of political candidates and elected officials attended the Board’s regular meeting offering support for those community members encouraging the policy be abandoned in flagrant violation of state law.

The ACLU of Illinois today offered support for Waterloo School’s leadership as it seeks to support and affirm all students in their system – whether transgender or cisgender. The following can be attributed to Edwin C. Yohnka, Director of Communications and Public Policy at the ACLU of Illinois:

The School Board of Waterloo CUSD #5 is fulfilling its obligations by resisting the pressure of a handful of loud, angry voices calling for them to abandon their policy allowing students to utilize restrooms consistent with their gender identity. Not only are such calls based on discredited stereotypes and misunderstandings about transgender students, but heeding them would also violate of Illinois law. The Illinois Human Rights Act demands that all schools allow transgender students access to appropriate restroom facilities, and does not allow – as some suggest – transgender students to be segregated and exiled to separate facilities where they will feel further ostracized.

The law on this issue is clear in Illinois and no school district, including Waterloo, should give in to angry voices calling for them to violate that law. Giving in to these calls as an institution charged with educating young students would send a terrible message – that adherence to laws is optional and dependent on who yells the loudest.

We note that at the most recent Board meeting, a number of elected officials and candidates for public office were in attendance, offering support for those calling for the policy to be changed. While every public official can oppose any policy – we call on these leaders to eschew suggestions that Waterloo can somehow place itself above state law. Discussion of these issues already can be emotional; public officials – and those seeking office – have a responsibility to be clear to everyone about what the law requires. 

Finally, we encourage everyone involved in these discussions to be mindful that this is not an abstract debate being performed on cable television. The lives and well-being of young people in the community of Waterloo are at stake. Those young people should be everyone’s first and primary consideration. 

Finally, the Board should not yield in their adherence to the law. It is good for young people and good policy.