Schools Consider Unrestricted Locker Room Access for Transgender Students

A suburban high school district that’s faced years of court battles over equal locker room access is considering a big policy change.

Township High School District 211, which covers students in Palatine, Schaumburg, Hoffman Estates, and parts of other northwest suburbs, currently requires transgender students to use private changing areas in the locker room that corresponds with their gender identity. Last week, the district proposed ending that requirement while keeping private areas in place for students who wish to use them.

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In a statement, district superintendent Dan Cates said that “understanding and acceptance of transgender identity have advanced – societally and in our immediate communities – for the better.”

“The proposed policy we are presenting provides for equal educational opportunities, without exception or condition, and without the restriction of private changing stalls that we have required of transgender students for the past four years,” Cates said. “The core of the policy was created by the Illinois Association of School Boards, and the policy has been adopted widely across the State of Illinois. We haven’t heard of challenges or controversies associated with unrestricted access in districts across the state.”

Tracey Salvatore, who lives in the district and has two children in grade school, said she was “elated” when she heard about the proposed change and thinks parents and students won’t find it shocking.

“Frankly, it’s more of a surprise that they weren’t already doing it, because it feels like society has grown in terms of being so accepting, and our community is generally loving, tolerant and accepting,” Salvatore said.

Vicki Wilson of the group D211 Parents for Privacy has for years opposed the current policy and is also against the proposed change. She says the district is not protecting “the privacy and dignity of students.”

“Girls who treat their classmates with respect and kindness, who have friends who identify as transgender, who simply ask for private spaces to remain female only or male only are being silenced, bullied and shamed,” Wilson said.

The District 211 board heard public comment at last Thursday’s meeting but did not take action on the proposed policy change. It is set to be considered at a meeting later this year, likely in November.

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