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Evanston High School committee to send locker room policy to full board
by Matt Simonette

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Officials from Evanston Township High School Board of Education Policy Committee, on March 16, said they would draft a policy permitting trans students to use the locker room facilities designated for the gender for which they identify; that policy will go before the full board at its meeting next month.

ETHS already has robust diversity policies in place, but the matter of locker room-access for trans students has been unresolved. Students have been using a third, gender-neutral locker room if they are uncomfortable using the changing facility for the gender which they were assigned at birth.

School officials previously drafted a locker room policy in 2015 but hadn't enacted it. In the ensuing months, various school districts, some in the Chicago region, grappled with the legal implications of trans-affirming policies while the federal government vacillated in student guidelines once the executive branch changed hands. The Supreme Court had been expected to weigh in on the issue, but ultimately decided against hearing the case of Gavin Grimm, a transgender boy suing for public-accommodations access at his school in Virginia, meaning that no legal precedent is likely to serve as guide in the near future.

Many school officials, students and advocates now want the ETHS board to adopt a position, so the matter of locker room access was assigned to the Policy Committee, which consists of two board members, Gretchen Livingston and Pat Savage-Williams.

At the March 16 meeting, which was attended by other board members, community members and several ETHS students, Livingston urged action on the matter. When the district's lawyer spoke of the risk of a lawsuit similar to one filed by student families in the Northwest suburbs over privacy rights, Livingston noted that there was also a risk that ETHS could be sued by a student seeking better access.

"We need to make this happen, for our students who are here right now," said Livingston.

All ETHS students who spoke at the hearing asked for a more inclusive policy; many held up signs showing their support. Grey Miller, a trans student, said the gender-neutral locker room "was very dear to me" but pointed out that public-accommodations access had been key to many civil-rights struggles and urged for a policy that didn't automatically result in segregation.

Board member Mark Metz suggested that "students are a lot more open than we think. Maybe this is more about the adults than the kids."

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