The decision over whether a transgender girl at a Palatine high school can use the locker room corresponding to the gender with which she identifies has stirred more controversy, with the school district's board now saying that federal authorities have misrepresented the agreement.
After a long meeting Wednesday night, members of the Township High School District 211 School Board announced they had reached an agreement with the Office of Civil Rights ( OCR ) of the Department of Education, who had given the district 30 days to resolve the matter. They said that the student would be allowed to use the girls' locker room, but only in a designated area. They also said that the agreement only applied to the student in question, and would not be universally applicable to others.
The following day, representatives from the OCR implied that the district had misrepresented the agreement, and said that the terms were that the student could exercise any degree of privacy she wished, and that this policy would heretofore apply to all students.
But the district responded angrily on Dec. 4 to the OCR announcement. District 211 Superintendent Daniel Cates said in a statement that, "The resolution agreement's provisions on locker room access, approved by our School Board just 36 hours ago, apply ONLY to the student who lodged the complaint. It does not apply district-wide, nor set precedent for other school districts in the country. It gives this student access to the gender-identified locker room with this student's stated assurance that privacy curtains will be used. And, if this student doesn't comply, access will no longer be allowed. The agreement also removes the threat of the loss of federal funds and states that no violation of Title IX or discrimination by the District has occurred.
"We communicated to the OCR that we expected a full retraction of their inaccurate portrayal of the agreement in the media. They refused. Failing that, we will convene an emergency board meeting to discuss taking action, including retraction of the agreement because the OCR acted in bad faith."
The student was represented by American Civil Liberties Union - Illinois. Ed Yohnka, director of Communications and Public Policy for ACLU - Illinois spoke out against Cates' reaction.
"Superintendent Cates' intemperate and inflammatory statements this afternoon are disappointing," Yohnka said. "Clearly, the District remains committed to a path of discrimination and division, rather than moving toward healing, understanding and inclusion. In its letter of findings, OCR found the District in violation of Title IX for refusing to allow our client in the locker room unless she agreed to change behind a privacy curtain. Similarly, the resolution agreement fails to condition our client's locker room access on whether she uses the privacy curtains.
"Our client should be treated as every teenage girl, with the right to exercise her own sense of modesty and privacy. Threatening to cut off our client's access to the locker room if she does not promise to use the privacy curtains exclusively simply moves her current segregation from a separate room to a space inside the locker room, as OCR already concluded …It is time to end this hostile and cynical public relations campaign and for the leadership of District 211 to create an open and welcoming environment for all studentsas other school districts in Illinois and the nation have already done."
NOTE: The school district is hosting an emergency meeting Monday, Dec. 7, 7:30 p.m. at James B. Conant High School. The Board of District 211 has called the emergency meeting to vote on whether to rescind an agreement.