Citizens at the East Aurora board meeting
Illinois School Board Passes, Then Rescinds, Transgender Rights Policy

By Trudy Ring

Originally published on Advocate.com October 22 2012 8:13 PM ET

Just four days after approving a policy aimed at protecting the rights of transgender students, an Illinois school board has rescinded it.

The board for the East Aurora School District 131, located in the Chicago suburb of Aurora, had unanimously OK’d the policy, which among other things would allow students to use the restroom, locker room, and other facilities that correspond to their gender identity and be called by the name they preferred. But after the October 15 vote, there was an outcry from the right-wing Illinois Family Institute, which called it a “radical policy on gender confusion.”

An article published on the Family Institute’s website claimed, “Apparently, all that’s needed for school personnel to be compelled to participate in a fiction is for a student to pretend ‘consistently’ at school that he or she is the opposite sex. … This feckless school board has made a decision to accommodate, not the needs of gender-confused teens, but their disordered desires and the desires of gender/sexuality anarchists who exploit public education for their perverse ends.”

When board members reversed the decision at an emergency meeting Friday, they said it was to allow time for input on the policy by state officials, Chicago’s Windy City Times reports. “I sincerely apologize that we didn’t watch closer,” said board president Annette Johnson. “[But] public education has to address everyone’s needs.” The board is scheduled to revisit the policy at its November 5 meeting.

Activists with LGBT and education groups blamed pressure from the Family Institute for Friday’s vote, however. “You have been bullied into having this meeting,” Anthony Martinez, executive director of the Civil Rights Agenda, told the board. “I want you to think about the message you are sending.” He said it was ironic that the meeting took place on Spirit Day, designated as a day to stand up against bullying of LGBT and other youths.

Shannon Sullivan, executive director of the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance, issued a statement saying, “We are beyond dismayed and shocked that concerns from outside the district would drive this type of reactionary decision. “We maintain our commitment to supporting the families and students of District 131 in being heard over the outside concerns of hate groups. This work will continue.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights organization, has classified the Illinois Family Institute as a hate group, based on its dissemination of false and defamatory information about LGBT people.