Parents at an Illinois high school who wanted respect for their children but were faced with nothing but demands on behalf of one transgender student are fighting back.
Fifty families whose children attend Township High School District 211 in Palatine, Ill., banded together to file a federal lawsuit Wednesday, seeking to block a policy that allows a transgender student to use girls’ locker rooms. The policy was ordered to be put in place by the U.S. Department of Education to resolve a case that began in 2013.
“It’s an organic group of parents and students who came together and said, ‘We have to do something about this — we can’t just roll over and allow the federal government to force our school to commingle the sexes in locker rooms,’” said Jeremy Tedesco, a lawyer representing the families.
The lawsuit uses a novel legal approach by challenging the Education Department’s authority to redefine the term “sex” in Title IX of U.S. law to include gender identity, Tedesco said.
“We did everything we could to work with the school district, and we were really hoping they would do the right thing and protect the privacy of all students, but when they chose not to, we felt we had no choice in order to protect the girls in the locker room,” said the leader of the group, Students and Parents for Privacy. The group’s president asked that her name not be published because of the sensitive nature of the case.
The case began in 2013 when a student who was born male but identifies as female complained that the school discriminated against him. Although the school gave the student full access to girls’ bathrooms and allowed the student on female sports teams, that was not enough. In December 2015, the Education Department demanded the student be given unfettered access to the girls’ locker rooms.
Thomas Petersen, director of community relations at Township High School District 211, said the school “could potentially lose up to $6 million in federal funding.”
The president of Students and Parents for Privacy said the group’s goal is balance.
“We understand why Student A doesn’t want to be in the boys’ locker room,” she said. “We get it. But the girls’ locker room isn’t the answer either. We believe in accommodation, but we don’t believe in an accommodation that hurts other students.”
“We truly do care about these children who struggle with gender identity, and these children are welcome in my home,” she said. “All I ask is that the respect go both ways. That’s what we’re not seeing. We’re just seeing demands.”