ELGIN - Last week when Elgin, Illinois' U-46 School District students returned to class after the Labor Day holiday, a policy was set into action at one of the middle schools that would allow a transgender student access and use of locker rooms of the opposite biological sex.
The new policy concerned board member Jeanette Ward that she had been notified of the change, but parents were not. So she posted a notice on her School Board member Facebook page, which was shared 251 times:
Starting tomorrow, U-46 Administration is changing its practice concerning students' access to locker rooms of the opposite sex. Students who identify as the opposite gender (regardless of biological sex) will be able to use the locker room that corresponds with the gender with which they identify, at the same time as other students. U-46 has opted not to inform parents or the community at large of this change. I am informing you. I encourage you to contact U-46 administration about this matter if you have concerns.
Board President Tony Sanders proposed that any student that wasn't comfortable with the new policy talk with their school principal.
"If a student feels uncomfortable for any reason, he or she should speak to the school principal. First we need to understand why there is discomfort and attempt to address it first. But if there are no other options, an alternate changing location could be provided," he wrote on his Facebook page.
Because the previous school board voted a non-discriminatory policy into place last year, there was no discussion of the newly-enacted policy before the school board and no opportunity for parents to influence the action.
After Monday night's meeting, Ward posted the following on her Facebook page:
I want to thank ALL those who came to last night’s U-46 Board of Education meeting to let their voices be heard on transgender locker room practices in U-46, especially my supporters (attached are some pictures from one of the overflow rooms forwarded to me by a supporter). As I said last night, though, this is not about me; it is about ideas:
-The idea that parents have a right to know if their sons or daughters are
sharing locker rooms with members of the opposite biological sex
-The idea that parents shouldn’t be kept in the dark when it comes to the privacy and safety of their children
-The idea that privacy begins at the locker room/bathroom door
-The idea that federal and state law was never intended to conceal locker room and bathroom practice changes from parents
Since there seems to be some confusion about this, let me clarify. The practice of allowing members of the opposite biological sex to share a locker room is already occurring in U-46, effective September 6. That was the reason for my September 5 Facebook post. There will be no board vote on this. As was stated last night, the previous board (2013) approved policy 7.010 which states:
“the Board of Education will pursue equal educational and extracurricular opportunities for all students without regard to race, color, nationality, ancestry, sex, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, disability, status as homeless, order of protection status, actual or perceived marital or parental status, gender identity, pregnancy, and any other legally protectable category”
It is my position that the Administration and majority of the board are misinterpreting and misapplying existing anti-discrimination policies to justify new practice. Similarly phrased anti-discrimination policies and laws (including Title IX and the IL Human Rights Act) have always allowed schools and other organizations to maintain separate restrooms for objectively female and male persons.
It is up to the school district's parents to organize and call for a policy reversal if they do not want the new policy application to remain in place, Ward said.
Therefore, while it was wonderful that so many expressed concern about this change in U-46 practice (that for the first time, a gender dysphoric student is accessing the locker room that corresponds to his/her gender identity at the same time as members of the opposite biological sex), it will continue unless parents take action.
School District 211 in Palatine had a similar discussion earlier this year. A transgender students there is now allowed access to the biological opposite sex's locker room.