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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, November 6, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 45
Feds support Trans student's access to locker room
Section One
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Feds support Trans student's access to locker room

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The U.S. Department of Education (DOE) has given an Illinois school district 30 days to grant one of their Transgender students access to the girls' locker room or lose millions of dollars in federal funding.

Palatine High School District 211 is in violation of Title IX of the Education Act of 1972, DOE ruled, and must comply with the law if it wishes to qualify for federal funding assistance.

Title IX prohibits discrimination in the use of school facilities and programs on the basis of sex and is perhaps best known as the legal basis for girls' athletic programs.

'All students deserve the opportunity to participate equally in school programs and activities - this is a basic civil right,' said DOE Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine Lhamon in a statement.

'Unfortunately, [the school district] is not following the law because the district continues to deny a female student the right to use the girls' locker room.'

The DOE ruling comes after almost two years of investigation. According to the ACLU, which is representing the student, this was DOE's first-ever decision using federal funding to enforce the rights of a Transgender student.

The ACLU said their client, who preferred to remain unnamed in the media, has identified as a girl for many years. After her complaint was filed by the ACLU, the school district offered to allow her to use the girls' locker room, but only if she actually changed her clothes and showered in another location.

'What our client wants is not hard to understand. She wants to be accepted for who she is and to be treated with dignity and respect - like any other student,' said John Knight, Director of the LGBT & HIV Project at the ACLU of Illinois.

'The district's insistence on separating my client from other students is blatant discrimination. Rather than approaching this issue with sensitivity and dignity, the district has attempted to justify its conduct by challenging my client's identity as a girl.'

The student said DOE's ruling made her 'extremely happy - because of what it means for me, personally, and for countless others.'

'The district's policy stigmatized me, often making me feel like I was not a 'normal person,' ' she added.

'The Department of Education's decision makes clear that what my school did was wrong. I hope no other student, anywhere, is forced to confront this indignity. It is a good day for all students, but especially those who are transgender all across the nation.' The Obama administration recently filed a legal brief supporting a similar claim by a Transgender student in Virginia. The administration's 40-page filing is also based on Title IX.

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