A Springfield area high school student who is transgender has resolved a complaint against his school that results in fair and equal treatment for the student, and other transgender students in the district, including access to the gender-appropriate restroom and locker room facilities at the school.
The student, Alex McCray, attends Williamsville High School, part of Williamsville-Sherman Community Unit School District #15. Until recently, Alex was required by school officials to use a single-occupant restroom rather than the restrooms used by the other boys in his class. The restroom offered to Alex is located in a remote part of the school, isolating Alex from classmates and other students. While some of Alex's friends chose to use this isolated restroom, as a sign of solidarity, Alex refused to do so because it stigmatized him. This forced Alex to go through the long hours of school without using the bathroom to avoid having to use the separate restroom.
The settlement announced today resolves a complaint filed last October with the Illinois Department of Human Rights by the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois and lawyers from the Chicago office of Foley & Lardner on behalf of Alex. The agreement was approved by the school board at their regular meeting last week.
"I am very pleased that we were able to come to an agreement, mostly because it's going to benefit other students like myself" says Alex. "By my school doing this, it shows that they are truly going to respect every individual student, regardless of their gender identity. By putting in this reasonable policy in place, all students will be protected, including future transgender students."
"I filed this complaint to ensure that those students would have an easier time coming out after I graduate."
The agreement provides Alex, and other transgender students in the district, with access to appropriate restrooms and locker rooms. In addition, it calls for the district to adopt a comprehensive policy that creates a model for addressing the needs of students who are transgender, when the situation arises in the future.
"This district has chosen to address the needs of all its students, including all who are transgender now and in the future," said John A Knight, LGBT Project Director for the ACLU of Illinois. "Alex should be recognized for his remarkable courage in pursuing this complaint. As a result, the district will affirm and respect his male gender and will adopt a thoughtful policy that will assist other students in the future and can serve as a basis for broader public education and public understanding."
"This school district's quick and respectful response should be a model for other districts in Illinois and elsewhere."
A growing number of school districts across Illinois are adopting policies that permit students who are transgender to access the appropriate restrooms and locker rooms. These school districts often report that students have little trouble or resistance to accepting fellow students who are transgender, especially when the school officials are supportive.
Last year, the U.S. Department of Education found that District 211 in suburban Chicago was in violation federal law for denying a student who was transgender access to the gender-appropriate locker room. The ACLU of Illinois also represents the student who filed that complaint. Public resistance by some school officials there led to ugly public wrangling, and disturbances at some school board meetings. That has been avoided in this case because of the different approach of leadership in this school district.
Experts note that it is crucial for transgender students' health and well-being to be fully recognized and affirmed by their school. The State of California has a state statute requiring schools to recognize and respect the gender identity of transgender students in accessing services and facilities, which has been implemented without any reported incidents throughout that state. Several other states have established similar state-wide policies. And, of course, the Governor of South Dakota recently vetoed legislation aimed at limiting bathroom and locker room access based on the gender assigned an individual at birth.
Alex has already been granted access to the male bathrooms and locker rooms without incident.
The ACLU of Illinois was assisted in this matter by David Goroff and Mike Casner of the Chicago office of Foley & Lardner.