Illinois families sue over transgender access to locker room

Dozens of families took legal action Wednesday in a bid to stop a suburban Chicago school district from allowing a transgender student to use a girls' locker room and restroom, arguing the policy trampled on the privacy rights of other students.

Lawyers for Alliance Defending Freedom and Thomas More Society, two conservative groups, filed the 77-page suit Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Chicago on behalf of 51 families with links to Palatine-based Township High School District 211. It names the district and the U.S. Department of Education as defendants.

The battle for access to girls' facilities at William Fremd High School by the transgender student — who was born male but identifies as female — helped spark a national debate last year that has since spread to other districts.

District 211 eventually agreed to grant the access after the Department of Education determined it had violated the transgender student's rights and it was threatened with the loss of millions in federal funds. The student can use separate changing stalls in the girls' locker room but isn't required to.

"The District has faithfully honored our agreement with the Office for Civil Rights and our students have shown acceptance, support and respect of each other," District Superintendent Dan Cates said in a statement. "We have implemented the agreement without any reports of incident or issue."

One attorney for the families, Jocelyn Floyd, decried what she described as undue pressure by the Education Department.

"We ... demand that the federal government cease its bullying tactics to force this dangerous social experiment into our nations' schools," she told reporters at the federal court building, flanked by several dozen parents.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, which has represented the transgender student, criticized the suit.

"Today's lawsuit is a sad development by groups opposed to fair and humane treatment of all students, including those who are transgender," said Edwin Yohnka, an ACLU spokesman. "We expect that today's lawsuit will meet the same unsuccessful end as the previous efforts to peddle fear and divisiveness."

The suit seeks, among other things, a court order that the district "permit only biological females to enter and use District 211's girls' locker rooms and restrooms."

The policy, it says, causes other girls fear and embarrassment. It adds: They are "afraid they will have to see a male in a state of undress," which, for some, is a "distraction throughout the school day." One girl's anxiety led her to wear gym clothes under her street clothes so she can peel just the outer clothes off in the locker.

The transgender student, who hasn't been identified and wants to remain anonymous, has been living as a girl since middle school and received a diagnosis of gender dysphoria; she's also taking female hormones, a summary of the Department of Education's investigation said.

Yohnka says the vast majority of the transgender student's classmates are supportive of her.

"It is only a small percentage of adults who insist on perpetuating these non-controversies by perpetuating ugly distortions about a vulnerable group of young people," he said.