UPDATE 12/4/2015 4:00 p.m. School District 211 issued a press release suggesting that the OCR was acting in “bad faith” on the settlement affecting our client, and threatening an “emergency board meeting to discuss action, including the potential retraction of the agreement. . . .” Read our response.
UPDATE 12/3/2015 4:30 p.m.
Early this morning at a meeting in Hoffman Estates, the school board for Township District 211 accepted a proposed agreement with the Office of Civil Rights (“OCR”) for the Department of Education to resolve a complaint by the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois for a female student denied access to the locker rooms used by other girls simply because she is transgender. In statements to the media and posted on their website in the wee hours of the morning, District 211 claimed that the agreement only applied to our client and that the student would be forced to use privacy curtains within the women’s locker rooms.
Late this afternoon, the Office of Civil Rights made clear that these claims badly misrepresent the settlement agreed to by the District 211 Board. They clarified in messages to several media outlets that the agreement applies to all students, not just our client. And, the OCR also clearly stated that our client, like all students, does not have to use a privacy curtain. She may choose to do so, but she is not required to use the privacy curtain under the settlement.
In response to these developments, John Knight, Director of the LGBT & HIV Project at the ACLU of Illinois issued an updated statement on this matter:
On behalf of our client and her family, we are pleased that the Department of Education has affirmed that District 211 must provide a safe and respectful environment for all students, including those who are transgender. Although we are disappointed in the District’s efforts to mispresent the nature of the agreement, we encourage its leadership to seize this moment, and to help residents and students in District 211 to learn about the discrimination and harassment facing transgender men and women and encourage fairness and tolerance for all persons, including those who are transgender.
Last night at a meeting in Hoffman Estates, the school board for Township District 211 accepted a proposed agreement with the Office of Civil Rights for the Department of Education to resolve a complaint by the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois for a female student denied access to the locker rooms used by other girls simply because she is transgender. The Department of Education formally issued their findings on November 2, 2015, initiating a 30-day period during which the District could continue to negotiate a settlement with the Department. Tonight, the Board approved such a settlement.
The following can be attributed to John Knight, Director of the LGBT & HIV Project at the ACLU of Illinois:
On behalf of our client and her family, we are pleased that the Board of Education for District 211 voted to enter into an agreement with the Department of Education that allows our client access to the girls’ locker rooms. However, the agreement falls well short of our hopes.
We had hoped this agreement would be a model for other districts. It is not.
When the OCR announced the findings in this matter, it said “All students deserve the opportunity to participate equally in school programs and activities.” The agreement approved last night only addresses the needs of our client, not other transgender students. This is a terrible mistake. Our client had the personal resources and parental support to fight for equal treatment and locker room access. Not every student does. Districts that care about the safety and dignity of their transgender students make it clear up front that gender-appropriate restrooms and locker rooms are available, rather than putting the burden on transgender students to fight for what the law requires. The agreement here means that other transgender students in District 211 will be forced to run this gauntlet in order to vindicate their rights.
We also remain disturbed by the inaccurate, misleading and fundamentally troubling language used by the District, even as they adopt this agreement. For example, the District said last night hat transgender students who are provided access to locker rooms consistent with their gender identity “will utilize a private changing station when changing clothes or showering” and will not be allowed unrestricted access to the locker room. This is not what the agreement with OCR provides. The agreement specifically says that “based on Student A’s representation that she will change in private changing stations in the girls’ locker rooms, the District agrees to provide Student A access to locker room facilities designated for female students at school.” Nowhere does the agreement require Student A to use a private area to dress and such a requirement would be blatantly discriminatory.
No student should be labeled as different by their school, or denied full and equal participation at school with their peers. Yet that is precisely what District 211 says it will continue to do, no matter what the agreement actually says.
Finally, the District continues to demonstrate a wanton ignorance of the science of gender by persisting in drawing a false distinction between transgender persons’ gender and anatomy. Let me be clear. My client is a girl – full stop.
The District’s refusal to accept transgender students as girls and boys is extremely harmful for all students, but especially those who are transgender. We had hoped the District would embrace this moment as an opportunity to educate itself and its community about what it means to be transgender. Unfortunately, that has not happened.
It is still not too late. We encourage the District 211 leadership in the coming months to seize this moment to partner with the young people in the District – who are in many ways far ahead of their parents in accepting and valuing their transgender peers – to learn more about what it means to be transgender and about the discrimination and violence transgender people often face throughout their lives.
- Read the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights letter and fully executed agreement (PDF)
- Read the findings from the Office of Civil Rights (PDF)
- Read the original complaint (PDF)
- From the blog: Our child is a girl
- From the blog: "Getting it right for transgender students"
- Press Release: Department of Education stands with high school student who is transgender
- Press Release: District announces that it will violate federal law