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ACLU: Transgender Discrimination at Illinois School Could Have National Effects

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John Knight, director of the LGBT and HIV Project at the ACLU of Illinois, says District 211 is violating federal rules over transgender discrimination. Credit: ACLU of Illinois
John Knight, director of the LGBT and HIV Project at the ACLU of Illinois, says District 211 is violating federal rules over transgender discrimination. Credit: ACLU of Illinois
October 14, 2015

CHICAGO - A Chicago-area transgender student who identifies as female again is being denied access to a school locker room by district officials even though the federal Department of Education ordered the school to give her full access to the girls' locker room.

John Knight, director of the LGBT and HIV Project with the ACLU of Illinois, said the district clearly is discriminating against the student.

"This is the first the Department of Education has ruled on a case of this sort," he said, "and they are the experts, and their determination that this is a violation of federal law should have an impact nationally."

The student, whose name has not been released, first raised a complaint over District 211 with the federal goverment about a year and a half ago. The district is arguing that it's protecting the school's other students' right to privacy by giving the transgender student her own changing room.

Knight said she and other transgender students across the country already are facing undue hardships, such as bullying and being ostracized at school.

"A policy like District 211's is something that places these vulnerable students in even greater risk of harm," he said.

So far, the Department of Education hasn't made any public comments on the issue, but Knight said it's likely the department soon could force the school to follow the federal civil-rights mandate.

"What the department's asking for is fair and equal treatment for our client," he said, "and the school has absolutely refused to do so; that would mean she's given the same options that the other girls are given."

If the school district continues to deny the transgender student full locker-room access, it could lose about $6 million in federal funding.

An ACLU press release is online at aclu-il.org.

Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - IL