Chicago school district defies federal government, won't allow transgender to use girls' locker room

A gender-neutral bathroom is seen at the University of California, Irvine in Irvine, California.Reuters

A Chicago school district has refused to allow a transgender male who identifies himself as female to use a girls' locker room despite an advice from the US Department of Education.

The transgender student of Township High School District 211 sought to use the locker room nearly two years ago, reported the Christian News Network.

However, the district did not approve it based on privacy concerns of other students. It offered the student a private location to change but he refused it. He contacted the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) which filed a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) of the US Department of Education.

"They are telling a student that she can't be with her friends at school but has to be relegated to a separate place to dress. That's just a horrible thing to do," John Knight, director of ACLU Illinois' LGBT programme, told the Daily Herald.

The education department said the district had to allow the student to use the locker room of his choice based on Title IX requirements. However, the district still refused to do so.

"After serious and lengthy consideration, the district will continue to provide private accommodations for transgender students to ensure a respectful school environment, and will not allow unrestricted access to its locker rooms as directed by OCR," it said.

The school district said it aims "to protect the privacy rights of all students when changing clothes or showering before or after physical education and after-school activities, while also providing accommodations necessary to meet the unique needs of individual students."

"We believe that we would be compromising other students' privacy if we did this. We do not believe we are discriminating," Superintendent Daniel Cates said. "They are asking us to have opposite-sex students in the same open area of the locker room and showers. We do not do that."

The school district knows that the lawsuit may happen because of its decision including losing a $6 million federal funding.

"District 211 has provided individual accommodations in a manner that does not infringe on the privacy concerns of other students, and it will continue to do so," it said. "It is the district's position that OCR's unilateral mandate does not consider the best interests of all District 211 students and their families."

Knight said, "having a finding and analysis from the Department of Education specific to locker rooms will certainly have a national impact in terms of telling school districts around the country what they should be doing."