For the second time in recent months, the Illinois Human Rights Commission has ruled that state law requires schools to provide transgender students full and equal use of facilities that match students’ gender identity. The decision announced today comes in response to a complaint filed on behalf of a young student in Komarek School District 94 in North Riverside. The student, referred to as P.S. in order to protect his privacy, was denied use of the boys’ communal restrooms by the school district because he is transgender.
The Commission ordered the District to allow the student to use the boys’ communal restroom and to cease and desist from such discrimination on the basis of students’ gender identity in the future.
“The Commission’s ruling means so much to our son and to our entire family – who love him very much,” said the parents of P.S. in a statement released through the ACLU of Illinois. “Requiring that our son be treated like every other boy in his class is extremely important for him, but also for so many other young people who have faced similar problems at school.”
The Commission ordered the District to pay a six-figure sum to P.S. for discriminating against him.
In July 2019, the Commission similarly found substantial evidence that Lake Park Community District 108 in Roselle had violated the rights of a transgender student when they denied him full and equal use of the school’s locker room. That District had required the student to dress behind a curtain in a separate part of the locker room - a burden imposed on no other student.
In the Lake Park case, the Commission found that “the District’s sole motivation in mandating that the [student] use a privacy curtain to change clothes while using the boys’ locker room was rooted in the [student’s] gender-related identity, transgender male.” The Commission also found that “a mandatory limitation requiring privacy curtain usage” amounted to a denial of full and equal use of the District’s facility in violation of the Human Rights Act.
The recent decisions from the Human Rights Commission make clear that state law requires Illinois schools to provide transgender students full and equal use of all facilities – including restrooms and locker rooms – consistent with their gender identity. In June, Governor JB Pritzker formed the Affirming and Inclusive Schools Task Force to develop strategies and best practices for ensuring "welcoming, safe, supportive and inclusive school environments" for transgender, non-binary and gender-nonconforming students. The Commission’s rulings provide the task force with the clear directive that state law protects all students’ right to fair treatment in Illinois schools.
The School Board of District 211 in suburban Palatine also recently began considering a new policy that would allow transgender students to use school facilities consistent with their gender identity. The proposed new policy is a significant development in a school district that has resisted full inclusion for transgender students over the past several years.
Taken together, these developments reflect growing understanding and acceptance of the need to treat all students fairly and equally, in all corners of our State. The parents of P.S. from Komarek School District welcome these developments.
“We hope that the Commission’s ruling offers greater confidence and hope to other families across Illinois who want their transgender children to be accepted for who they are. We have even seen our son worry about his liquid intake at school, hoping to go the entire day without having to use the restroom. This decision ends any of those concerns for our son and we hope it will be part of ending discrimination for other young people in Illinois.”
The below full statement can be attributed to the parents of P.S. on the Komarek decision:
“The Human Rights Commission’s ruling that our son’s school violated the Human Rights Act by denying him use of the boys’ restrooms because he is transgender means so much to our son and to our entire family who love him very much. Requiring that our son be treated like every other boy in his class is extremely important for him, but also for so many other young people who have faced similar problems at school. While the more than four years we have fought for our son has been difficult for us at times, we never regretted our decision to take this battle on. We’re thrilled to see it finally coming to an end so that our son can focus his attention on learning, spending time with his friends, and planning for the future without worrying about his school once again challenging his right to be treated like the other boys at his school.
We hope that the Commission’s ruling offers greater confidence and hope to other families across Illinois who want their transgender children to be accepted for who they are. We have seen our son suffer great anxiety because of the District’s discrimination. He even worried about his liquid intake at school, hoping to go the entire day without having to use the restroom. This decision ends those concerns for our son and we hope it will be part of ending discrimination for other young people in Illinois.
We recognize that this decision is one of several in Illinois finding that Illinois law guarantees fair treatment for all students who are transgender. By now, it should be crystal clear that Illinois schools must treat transgender students no differently than other students, including by offering them full and equal use of restrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity.
We believe that every school district should adopt inclusive and affirming policies – not simply because it is the law, but because is the right thing to do. We took on the school in this case both to ensure that our son would be treated fairly and to prevent any other students from suffering the kind of harm our son experienced. We are grateful the outcome of this case does both of those things.”