Skip to main content

WBEZ News

Palatine Transgender Student To Graduate, But Locker Room Debate Continues

The student who inadvertently sparked a massive debate over how schools should accommodate transgender students is slated to graduate Tuesday night from her Palatine high school, but a lawsuit looking to limit transgender student access will continue.

“Student A” was born male but identifies as a girl. She filed a civil rights complaint with the U.S. Department of Education in 2013 and eventually won access to the girls locker room at her school.

Some 50 families upset by that decision then sued northwest suburban Township High School District 211.

“Congratulations to Student A and best wishes for the future, but the lawsuit will proceed,” said Gary McCaleb, senior attorney with the conservative group Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents the families. 

District 211 has told families via email that the district’s schools may allow transgender students on a case-by-case basis to use locker rooms of the gender they identify with. But they must use privacy stalls to change. 

“There are a number of other students in the system who claim to be transgendered and we have a number of clients who are at risk of privacy violations because of that,” McCaleb said. 

“The issue that comes about in these cases is the students who are confused about their sexual identity are granted access to opposite-sex facilities, which intermingles boys and girls in the facility,” he said. “Once you intermingle the sexes, you have a privacy violation going on for the rest of the students.”

A decision in the lawsuit could come any time. 

The American Civil Liberties Union, which originally helped Student A file her civil rights complaint, supports the rights of transgender students to use whatever locker room they prefer. The ACLU has taken the side of District 211 in the privacy suit. 

“It is a case that seeks to do harm,” said John Knight, director of the ACLU of Illinois’ LGBT and HIV Project. “They have shown absolutely no way in which having transgender students — recognizing them and treating them equally — hurts anybody. In fact, it helps all students to treat transgender students fairly like everybody else.” 

Student A’s case attracted attention because it was the first time in the nation that a district was told it was violating a transgender student’s civil rights by denying her use of the girls locker room.

Linda Lutton reports on education for WBEZ. Follow her at @WBEZeducation

Get the WBEZ App

Download the best live and on-demand public radio experience. Find out more.

CLOSE X