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Chicago-Area High Schools Side With Trans Students on Locker Rooms

A student at Palatine High School

Illinois’s largest high school district voted Thursday night to allow transgender students equal access to locker rooms and bathrooms. 

The 5-2 board decision from Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 was years in the making, reported the local ABC affiliate

In 2015, the U.S. Department of Education said that District 211, located in Chicago's northwest suburbs, was violating federal law when it banned a trans student from having unrestricted access to the girls’ locker room. School officials eventually said that she could use the locker room — prompting a separate lawsuit from two dozen students and parents, backed by the conservative litigation mill Alliance Defending Freedom. The suit was dropped earlier this year.

In 2017, Nova Maday, then a 17-year-old junior, filed a lawsuit asking Palatine High School to be able to change in the common area of the girls’ locker room rather than in a separate, private stall. 

"To me, this is a simple question — am I going to be treated just like any other girl in my school," Maday said in a statement. "All I want is to be accepted by my school for who I am — a girl — and be able to take gym and use the locker room to change clothes like the other girls in my class." 

In 2018, Cook County Circuit Judge Thomas R. Allen denied Maday a preliminary injunction, continuing to block her access to the common area of the locker room while her case made its way through the courts. 

At the time, District 211 Superintendent Daniel Cates said, "We are committed to providing supportive access to our school locker rooms, access that respects and balances the identity and privacy interests of all of the nearly 12,000 teenagers in our high schools.”

The new policy approved by the school board on Thursday night allows students who publicly identify as trans to use the locker room corresponding with their gender identity. It is consistent with that of nearby Chicago Public Schools, which states, “All students are allowed to use restrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their gender identity.”

Some students expressed concern over privacy issues; others voiced support for District 211’s new policy.

"I think it will make it a lot safer and feel a lot better, definitely more secure for a lot of people, including myself," said Miles Toriani, District 211 student, told ABC. 

Three-quarters of trans students have expressed feeling unsafe at school, which is often exacerbated by being denied access to the correct locker room or restroom. 

The cases echo the public struggle of Gavin Grimm, who sued his Virginia-area school board in 2015 asking to be able to use the boys’ bathroom. Grimm has since graduated high school, but his case remains embroiled in the courts — as does the greater question of whether federal law protects trans students.

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