Board members in a suburban Chicago school district who voted to allow a transgender girl to use the girls locker room survived re-election Tuesday, despite opponents aggressively attempting to oust them over that decision.
Township High School District 211 has been at the center of the nationwide push for transgender rights. In 2015, President Barack Obama’s Education Department found that the school violated federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in education by refusing to let the student, who played on a girls sports team, use female facilities. The school risked losing federal funding unless it changed course.
The Obama administration argued that Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 protected transgender students and that a student’s gender identity should be treated as his or her sex.
The school board eventually voted to allow the student to use the girls locker room “with the understanding she would use a private changing station to which other students also have access,” according to The Chicago Tribune.
Incumbents Anna Klimkowicz and Robert LeFevre Jr., along with former board member Ed Yung ― who said he supports the policy ― won Tuesday, according to unofficial results.
“I think the community is aware of the transgender issue, but is supportive of the solution that we came up with because it was the most fair for all students,” Klimkowicz told the Daily Herald, the local paper.
A group of parents who objected to the school board’s decision formed a group called Parents for Privacy and sued the district, with the backing of a conservative Christian group called Alliance Defending Freedom. They also supported the three conservative challengers who lost this week.
“Parents have a reasonable expectation to know that there is a policy that these private areas are designated by biological sex,” said Vicki Wilson, co-founder of Parents for Privacy. “There is a path forward where all students are protected and respected. ... I’d say, let’s get you an accommodation, but not in the girls locker room.”
The transgender girl, known as Student A, is represented by the American Civil Liberties Union in the case. The district has installed five private changing stations at its schools, but The Chicago Tribune noted that the arrangement is set to expire when Student A graduates. Other students, however, are fighting for it to continue.
The school board election often goes unnoticed, and candidates sometimes don’t spend any money on their campaigns. But this year it drew a fair amount of outside money, The Washington Post reported. Richard Uihlein, a Wisconsin billionaire and GOP megadonor, contributed $3,000 to a group supporting the conservative challengers. On the other side, Trans United Fund, a group based in Washington, D.C., helped the efforts of the parents supporting transgender equality.
President Donald Trump’s administration said in late February that it would no longer abide by the previous interpretation of Title IX, sending a clear signal that it would not go after schools that deny transgender students access to facilities that correspond with their gender identity.
The transgender girl at the center of the controversy said the students in the school really have no issue with her situation ― it’s the parents who are making it a big deal.
“Young people, they don’t care,” she told The Washington Post. “I use the girls bathroom and no one makes an issue of it.”
CORRECTION: This article previously misstated which law the Obama administration had argued should extend to transgender students. It is Title IX of the Education Amendments, not of the Civil Rights Act.
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