District 211 transgender policy sparks widespread controversy
January 19, 2016
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In the past month, Township High School District 211, the largest high school district in the state, has slid under the microscope and gained national attention when it voted to give a transgender student partial access to the girls locker room.
Earlier this year, the student, who identifies as female, requested access to the girls locker room. District 211 originally granted the transgender student permission to access a gender–neutral bathroom but refused to grant the student access to the girls locker room. According to a statement released by District 211, their “position throughout this ongoing matter has always centered on safeguarding student privacy and upholding dignity for all students in our district.”
Federal law states that the decision of which bathroom or locker room a transgender student uses is up to that particular student. By not complying with the student’s request, the federal courts ruled that the district had broken the law.
“Youth who identify as transgender are protected under Title IX, a law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in federally funded programs and activities,” Assistant Superintendent Marni Johnson said. “We follow guidance that is developed by the Department of Education and the Office of Civil Rights.”
District 211 and the U.S. Department of
Education Office for Civil Rights have since come to an agreement allowing the student to change in the girls locker room. The student agreed to utilize a private, curtained-off area in the locker room to change and shower. This offer, however, was only made to this student and not to other transgender students in the district.
Rolling Meadows High School, as well as the rest of District 214, handles similar situations on a case-by-case basis. Faculty works with each student individually to figure out what he or she is most comfortable with, making adjustments as necessary and allowing him or her to use the bathroom and/or locker room of their choice.
Rights of transgender students is an area that is evolving for school districts. With growing concern from some parents and students, school districts have had to create new ways to make accommodations.
RMHS already has a system in place for transgender students to discuss their options regarding locker room and restroom usage. It requires a meeting with the student, the parents, a social worker, the student’s counselor and an administrator.
“The law is very specific in that the [transgender] student chooses based on what he or she is comfortable with,” Associate Principal of Operations Nathan Aslinger said. “We want to be aware of the situation so that way we can have proper training for our staff, so that way [the school] is able to
process what that may look like and how to assist the students that are made uncomfortable as well.”
If any student at any time is made uncomfortable by a situation, the best way to vocalize concern would be to talk to counselors and the school’s social workers.
“With all of our programming too, we always stress that if there’s something that makes you uncomfortable or if there’s something you’re unsure about, talk to a trusted adult first, be it an aunt, uncle or parent, and usually the adults will find the right person [within the school] for that student to talk to,” Social Worker Parisaw Faye said. “Our focus is always student-based. That way if there’s a student that feels uncomfortable and [has] expressed that statement, we always address the situation, and the school’s really good about being proactive, too.”
While the district and RMHS staff are concerned about student safety, many students are in support of equal transgender rights.
“People should be who they want to be, and I think that it’s not fair for someone who identifies as a girl to not be able to change with all the other girls,” senior Rahul Shah said. “Even if they look a little different, it’s just not fair. The only thing that I’m concerned about is that some people may abuse this. But obviously with proper diligence and having a conversation about gender identity with counselors and social workers, that concern would be eliminated.”