Transgender Restroom Fight Spreads to Illinois

     CHICAGO (CN) — Parents and students sued the U.S. Department of Education after Illinois school officials agreed to allow a transgender student to use the girls’ locker room and restroom.
     Students and Parents for Privacy and three female students sued the U.S. Department of Education, Secretary of Education John King, the Department of Justice, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Cook County, Ill., and the directors of Township High School District 211 in Illinois Federal Court on Wednesday.
     “This is a civil rights action to stop the Department of Education and Township High School District 211 from continuing to trample students’ privacy and other constitutional and statutory rights by forcing 14- to 17-year-old girls to use locker rooms and restrooms with biological males; and to set aside DOE’s ultra vires legislative rule redefining ‘sex’ in Title IX to include gender identity,” the 83-page complaint begins.
     The Education Department allegedly told Illinois School District 211 it would withhold $6 million of federal funds if it did not allow transgender students to use the restrooms and locker rooms for the gender with which they identify.
     This policy forced District 211 to allow “Student A,” a junior at Fremd High School, to use the women’s restrooms and locker rooms. Student A identifies as female, but is anatomically male, according to the lawsuit.
     “This creates an intimidating and hostile environment for the girl members of Students and Parents for Privacy, some of whom are as young as 14, because Student A – who is biologically a male – actively uses their private facilities at the same times as plaintiffs,” the complaint states. “As a direct result of defendants’ policies and actions, every day these girls go to school, they experience embarrassment, humiliation, anxiety, fear, apprehension, stress, degradation, and loss of dignity because they will have to use the locker room and restroom with a biological male.”
     The organization says the experience of being around a naked biological male is even more embarrassing given the girls’ heightened awareness of their bodies during adolescence.
     Some girls now avoid the locker rooms, or run to the end of the school to find a different bathroom, risking being late to class, the complaint claims.
     One girl wears her gym clothes underneath her regular clothes to avoid taking off her clothes in front of Student A.
     Another girl who changed clothes in a stall says she was ridiculed by other student and accused of being transphobic and homophobic for not wanting to undress in front of Student A.
     The district’s agreement with Student A stipulates that he will change in a private stall, but nothing requires him to do so, the organization claims. Even if he uses the stalls, he will walk past girls in a state of undress in order to get to the private stalls, according to Wednesday’s lawsuit.
     “The dread, anxiety, stress, and fear these three girl plaintiffs feel over having to use the same PE locker room as a biological male is an ever-present distraction throughout the school day, including during class instruction time,” the complaint states.
     Chicago Public Schools announced this week that transgender students will be able to use restrooms and locker rooms of their gender identity.
     North Carolina recently passed a law prohibiting restroom access based on gender identity, but the Department of Justice said Wednesday that the law violates civil rights protections.
     District 211 Superintendent Dan Cates said in a statement, “District 211 affirms and supports the identity of all our students.”
     “The District has faithfully honored our agreement with the Office for Civil Rights and our students have shown acceptance, support and respect of each other. We have implemented the agreement without any reports of incident or issue. Individual changing stalls in our locker rooms are readily available to every student and further accommodations that provide even greater privacy remain available upon request,” Cates said.
     The plaintiffs seek an injunction prohibiting the school from enforcing its agreement with Student A, and enforcing the girls’ purported “constitutional right to be free from state-compelled risk of intimate exposure of themselves and their intimate activities to members of the opposite sex.”
     Press Secretary Dorie Turner Nolt told Courthouse News that the Department of Education does not comment on ongoing litigation.
     The plaintiffs are represented by Jocelyn Floyd with the Thomas More Society in Chicago, and Jeremy Tedesco with the Alliance Defending Freedom in Scottsdale, Ariz.

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