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No decision yet in Illinois’ transgender discrimination case

No decision yet in Illinois’ transgender discrimination case
Transgender students' access to locker rooms and restrooms are up for debate in a 13-state lawsuit against President Obama's recent directives. Photo: Kate Ter Harr via Flickr

CHICAGO (AP) — A federal magistrate judge said Monday he will not immediately rule on a dispute at a suburban Chicago school district over transgender student access to girls’ locker rooms and restrooms.

Although the timeline is unclear, U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey Gilbert said he will eventually issue a report with his recommendation on an injunction to U.S. District Judge Jorge Alonso.

The conservative group Students and Parents for Privacy filed a lawsuit on behalf of dozens of parents with links to Palatine-based Township High School District 211. The lawsuit argues federal authorities forced the district to adopt a policy that tramples on the privacy rights of other students.

A transgender student at William Fremd High School in Palatine drew attention to the issue in November when she complained to the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights that she was denied access to facilities for the gender she identifies with. In response, federal authorities found the school district in violation of Title IX, the federal law that bans discrimination based on gender.

The district in December allowed the student access to restrooms and locker rooms to settle the complaint. The settlement allowed the district to keep millions in federal funding and forgo possible legal action.

Jeremy Tedesco, a lawyer for Students and Parents for Privacy, told the judge the transgender student referred in court as “Student A” is male, and he said his clients have a right to use a locker room “free of a male student.” He also decried a “subjective definition of sex.”

But Education Department lawyer Sheila Lieber argued “Student A” is a female who was harmed when she was “not allowed to use the female locker room” prior to December.

Lieber also criticized the lawsuit’s timing, saying the district’s policies allowing transgender students to use the bathrooms and locker rooms matching their gender identity were in place long before parents brought the issue to court. She said that fact undercuts the need for an emergency injunction.

“They’ve not come up with one example of concrete harm, let alone as to why they need relief now,” Lieber said.

Sally Scott, a lawyer for the school district, said “Student A” changes her clothes in a bathroom stall “or doesn’t change.” Meanwhile, a locker room attendant is present, and other students are given access to private areas to change their clothes.

The lawsuit argues that female students at the high school “live in constant anxiety, fear and apprehension that a biological boy will walk in at any time while they use the locker rooms and showers and see them in a state of undress or naked.” Classes at Fremd started Monday.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, which represents the transgender student, filed a motion to intervene in the case.

“The plaintiffs and their counsel have insisted on cruelly mis-gendering our client and suggesting that being transgender is a ‘delusion,'” ACLU of Illinois spokesman Ed Yohnka said. “These acts are outside the mainstream of medical and scientific understanding and have a very detrimental effect on our client and other transgender students.”

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