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DOE Makes Decision on Transgendered Educational Rights

DOE Makes Monumental Decision On Transgendered Educational Rights


The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights concluded its investigation into a complaint against Township High School District 211 in Palatine, Illinois from a transgendered student denied access to the girls’ locker room; officials concluded the denial of access on the basis of sex was an act of discrimination.

The transgendered student, “Student A,” identifies as a girl and participates in the school’s girls sports teams, but was denied access to using the girls’ locker room without restriction.

"In a letter sent Monday, the Office for Civil Rights of the Department of Education told the Palatine district that requiring a transgender student to use private changing and showering facilities was a violation of that student’s rights under Title IX, a federal law that bans sex discrimination,” The New York Times reported. 

According to the letter, available through NYT, the OCR investigation concluded that Student A had transitioned to living as woman full-time in her middle school years and that her mother had communicated with the high school administration extensively as Student A began her transition into high school.

Using the boys locker room in middle school, the letter said, subjected Student A to harassing comments. Both her and her mother were under the impression she would be provided access to the girls’ locker room in high school to avoid such situations.

Though the OCR says the district did honor Student A by her female name with the correct female gender pronouns and provided her with unlimited access to the girls’ restrooms, she was denied access to the girls’ locker rooms; the Superintendent claimed that too few private stalls and too many students would pose an issue for Student A to change.

The letter goes into extensive detail about the embarrassment and inconvenience Student A faced while being forced to use restrooms to change versus the locker room with her peers.

“Student A also told OCR that one day, the PE Teacher told her classmates in the locker room they did not need to dress for class that day, but that since she had to change elsewhere, she did not receive the message. Student A told OCR that she was embarrassed when she showed up dressed in her gym uniform, while the other students were wearing street clothes. Student A returned to Restroom C and changed back into her street clothes,” the letter says.

Despite OCR involvement, the district officials maintain that they are acting in accordance with the needs of all students and have consistently denied Student A locker room access.

District Superintendent Daniel Cates called the decision a “serious overreach” and publicly disagreed. The OCR said it will continue to negotiate with the district but will enforce sanctions if an agreement is not reached.

In a post on the district's site earlier this month, the district administration said: "After serious and lengthy consideration, the District will continue to provide private accommodations for transgender students to ensure a respectful school environment, and will not allow unrestricted access to its locker rooms as directed by OCR."

"District 211 has provided individual accommodations in a manner that does not infringe on the privacy concerns of other students, and it will continue to do so. It is the District’s position that OCR’s unilateral mandate does not consider the best interests of all District 211 students and their families," the post said. 

Though the OCR decision is applicable only to the Illinois school district, it is expected to send a message to other districts on the standard for respecting gender identities.

Read the full story here.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor


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