The Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211’s (District) board, in a 5-2 split, has approved a settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) over the issue of a transgender student’s access to the girls’ locker room facilities. According to the agreement, the transgender student will continue to use a separate changing area within a girls’ locker room and not have unrestricted access to that locker room.

The agreement basically upholds the District’s position from the beginning that it would accommodate the student’s request to use the locker room, but would not grant unfettered access. That position opposes the wishes of the transgender student, who is biologically male, but identifies as female. As a result of the settlement, the District’s annual $6 million in federal funding is no longer in jeopardy. However, some parents, who belong to the group District 211 Parents For Privacy, oppose any compromise and believe that the agreement will expose the school district to legal liability.

OCR maintained that requiring the student to change in a separate area violated Title IX. The settlement reached later pertains only to the student who filed the federal complaint that sparked the debate and doesn’t represent a district wide policy. Furthermore, the District will allow any student access to privacy accommodations in the locker room through a variety of potential options.

The District Superintendent Dan Cates issued a statement, which said in part:

By reaching this mutual agreement with OCR, the threat of further litigation specific to the initial complaint has ended, and the district will retain full access to its federal funds used primarily to serve at-risk students. From the outset, our public statements have consistently conveyed the district’s position that unrestricted access by transgender students in our open locker rooms is unacceptable, because gender is not the same as anatomy. We have been clear in our public statements that access to gender-identified locker rooms must safeguard and protect student privacy whenever students are changing clothes or showering.

Cates added that the District has been sensitive to the needs of transgender students, including providing access to the restrooms of the gender they identify as — where there are individual stalls — for the past 2½ years.

Alfred C. Maiello
Alfred Maiello

Alfred C. Maiello is the founding member of MBM and has represented area school districts as solicitor for 50 years. He counsels school districts and educational institutions on leading developments in school law and guiding them through their day-to-day and long-term challenges.