School broke law by discriminating against transgender student

November 4, 2015 / Athletic Administration
An Illinois school district violated the law by barring a transgender student-athlete from the girls’ locker rooms, federal authorities concluded this week.

An Illinois transgender high school student was barred from using the girls' locker rooms. | Photo: Wikimedia Commons
An Illinois transgender high school student was barred from using the girls’ locker rooms. | Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The student, who identifies as female, filed a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights in 2013. She claimed she was told by the superintendent that she would not be able to use a restroom stall in the girls’ locker room, according to the OCR. She was assigned to a separate, single-occupancy restroom for physical education, swimming class and sports, the Chicago Tribune reported.

The investigation lasted nearly two years, and just recently Township High School District 211 (Palatine, Illinois) installed privacy curtains inside the locker room. The Tribune reported that a solution seemed imminent until school officials indicated the student would be required to use the private area, as opposed to doing so on her own.

John Knight, director of the LGBT and AIDS Project at ACLU of Illinois, called the proposed requirement “blatant discrimination,” according to the Tribune.

From the article:

“It’s not voluntary, it’s mandatory for her,” Knight said. “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.”

For the student at the center of the federal complaint and all other transgender students at the district’s five high schools, the staff changes their names, genders and pronouns on school records. Transgender students also are allowed to use the bathrooms of their identified gender and play on the sports team of that gender, school officials said.

But officials drew the line at the locker room, citing the privacy rights of the other 12,000-plus students in the district. As a compromise, the district installed four privacy curtains in unused areas of the locker room and another one around the shower, but because the district would compel the student to use them, federal officials deemed the solution insufficient.

The article notes that the student does play sports for a girls team.

A growing number of high schools are having difficulties accommodating transgender students and student-athletes. Half of all athletic directors in our latest State of the Industry survey reported being at least somewhat concerned about issues surrounding LGBT athletes and their participation. That’s the highest number in Coach and Athletic Director’s five years of surveys.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the school district has 30 days to reach a resolution with authorities before it risks having its federal funding suspended or terminated.

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