CPS Moves To Accommodate Transgender Students | WBEZ
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CPS Moves To Accommodate Transgender Students In Bathrooms And Locker Rooms

One day after Chicago Public Schools issued sweeping guidelines-- giving clearer rights to transgender students and staff --51 Northwest suburban families filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court over such policies in their own district.

Wednesday afternoon, Palatine-area mother Vicki Wilson said her school district, in coming to an agreement with the Department of Education on transgender locker room rights, failed to protect her child from having to undress with what she said was the opposite sex.

“We do sympathize with children who have difficult personal issues to work through but young men shouldn’t be permitted to deal with those issues in intimate settings with young girls, some as young as 14,” Wilson said in the federal courthouse lobby. 

She was joined by other parents and representatives of national organizations that have opposed such policies around the nation. They believe that the Title IX statute does not include gender identity and that the district should provide separate facilities for transgender students. 

Although the parents’ suit wasn’t aimed at the CPS’ policy specifically, it focuses on the kind of policies it represents--ones that give transgender students access to the bathroom and locker room that corresponds to their gender identity. 

CPS Chief Education Officer Janice Jackson says the Palatine case helped influence the Chicago’s district’s decision to update its guidelines with more specific language, but was not motivated by a particular Chicago case. In addition to bathroom access for transgender students, the CPS guidelines offer “special accommodations” to students who don’t identify with either sex and those who request more privacy. 

For the first time, the guidelines also outline protocols for overnight trips and adult staff and volunteers.

These local moves arrive against the backdrop of a continuing national debate on bathrooms and transgender rights. 

Earlier this spring, Illinois Rep.Thomas Morrison (R-54) also introduced a state bill that would require students to use restrooms that correspond to the sex they were assigned at birth. The bill, however, is not expected to advance in this session. 

CPS may be the biggest district in the state to adopt clearer transgender guidelines, but it was preceded by others locally and nationally. New York, Los Angeles and even suburban K-8 Berwyn South District 100 have adopted such guidelines. Transgender support advocates say that CPS was fairly unique, however, in publicizing its guidelines, whereas other districts have done it less publicly.

Monica Eng is a WBEZ food and health reporter. Follow her at @monicaeng or write to her at meng@wbez.org.

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