Long-running litigation involving public-accommodations access for transgender students in the Northwest suburbs came to a seeming end April 15, when U.S. District Judge Jorge Alonso on Monday approved the dismissal of a lawsuit seeking to bar transgender students from using the locker room of the gender with which they identify at District 211 in Palatine.
An attorney for the anti-LGBT organization Alliance Defending Freedom, which had been spearheading the suit on behalf of a local coalition called Students and Parents for Privacy noted for Chicago Tribune that the students in question had long ago graduated, but did not elaborate further.
District 211 was one of the first fronts in the myriad battles over whether transgender students could use locker room changing facilities or restrooms of the gender with which they identify. A student at the school sued the school district in 2013 for the right to use the girls' locker room to change for her physical education class. Two years later, after the Obama-era federal Department of Education threatened to pull the school's Title IX-related funding, District 211 cut a deal allowing the student to use her preferred locker rooms.
But that was only the beginning of the lawsuits over the matter; Alliance Defending Freedom's suit was announced in federal court in 2016. Yet another suit was filed, this one in state court, in 2017 by another transgender student alleging that the 2015 resolution was only applied to the first transgender girl and was not reflected in school policy.
John Knight, LGBTQ & HIV advocacy director for ACLU of Illinois, which had litigated the case on behalf of the first transgender student, said in an April 15 statement that, "We welcome the end of this case, and hope it encourages District 211 to makes its schools more welcoming for all students, including those who are transgender. District 211 still has some important work to do to make it a place where transgender students are treated fairly and respectfully.
"Over the course of nearly three years of litigation, one thing remained clear. There has never been any harm to non-transgender students from sharing restrooms and locker rooms with students whom they perceive as different. The only harm has been to transgender students who have been targeted with fear-mongering and misinformation. Students who are transgender have never been a threat to anyone in this school or elsewhere.
"This moment is an opportunity for District 211 to reject this cruelty and become a model for tolerance and humane treatment for all students, including those who are transgender."
Cook County Commissioner Kevin Morrison, who represents much of District 211, said, "This is an incredible win for the northwest suburbs and I'm happy and relieved for LGBTQ students in District 211. This lawsuit was simply an attempt to turn back the clock and intimidate schools, parents and students who believe in creating an environment that is safe and respectful of all students.
"High school is hard enough without the challenges that transgender students face daily as they try to live authentically. I truly believe that we as a community set the tone and have a shared responsibility to create a safe learning environment and protect all students. We still have a lot of work ahead but I hope this is the last we see of these blatantly anti-LBGTQ lawsuits in the 15th District."
Chicago Tribune's article is at bit.ly/2Giw9Ov .