The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has ordered a taxpayer-funded school district in the suburbs of Chicago to allow a male transgender student who dresses like a girl and otherwise identifies as female to use the girls locker room and shower on school premises.
The feds delivered the edict against Township High School District 211 in Palatine, Ill. on Monday, the Chicago Tribune reports.
The Department of Education has given the school district one month to let the student use the girls locker room. If the district does not capitulate, it risks losing federal funding.
The Department of Education’s civil rights division made its Title IX ruling after a two-year investigation using a “preponderance of evidence” standard.
President Barack Obama’s Department of Education – which manifestly is not vested with judicial powers – has taken to applying Title IX, a comprehensive 1972 federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, to transgender cases.
The unidentified high school student at the center of the ruling currently is listed as a girl in school files, uses girls’ restrooms and plays on girls’ sports teams.
That’s not enough, though. The student wants to be treated like a female in every respect by the school district that enrolls more than 12,000 students.
Showering in a different place is “blatant discrimination,” John Knight, director of the LGBT and AIDS Project at ACLU of Illinois, told the Tribune.
The ACLU of Illinois is representing the student.
“It’s one thing to say to all the girls, ‘You can choose if you want some extra privacy,’ but it’s another thing to say, ‘You, and you alone, must use them.’ That sends a pretty strong signal to her that she’s not accepted and the district does not see her as girl,” Knight also told the Chicago newspaper.
On Monday, the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights agreed.
“Student A has not only received an unequal opportunity to benefit from the District’s educational program, but has also experienced an ongoing sense of isolation and ostracism throughout her high school enrollment at the school,” the letter from the Office for Civil Rights proclaims.
School officials had worked out a plan under which the student could use a separate locker room and shower facility so that girls using the primary girls’ locker room and shower would not feel uncomfortable. The goal was to balance rights – to accommodate the student while, at the same time, “to protect the privacy rights of all students when changing clothes or showering before or after physical education and after-school activities,” according to a recent school district press release obtained by the Daily Herald, a suburban Chicago newspaper.
“We are very hopeful that we are going to be able to work to find a solution before this gets to the matter of funding,” Township district superintendent Daniel Cates told the Herald in the days leading up to Monday’s proclamation. “If we were to implement OCR’s unilateral mandate of unconditional access, we believe it sacrifices both student privacy and overrides the will of our local board of education.”
In a recent statement, Cates stressed the rights of every other female in the school district.
“The students in our schools are teenagers, not adults, and one’s gender is not the same as one’s anatomy,” Cates explained. “Boys and girls are in separate locker rooms – where there are open changing areas and open shower facilities – for a reason.”
In a statement obtained by the Tribune, the transgender student said he is elated with the ruling from Washington.
“This decision makes me extremely happy – because of what it means for me, personally, and for countless others,” he said. “The district’s policy stigmatized me, often making me feel like I was not a ‘normal person.’”
Catherine Lhamon, the Obama-appointed assistant secretary for civil rights in the Department of Education, also issued a statement about the male transgender student.
“Unfortunately, Township High School District 211 is not following the law because the district continues to deny a female student the right to use the girls’ locker room,” Lhamon said, according to The New York Times.