Equality Debate Rages as Transgender Student Denied Locker Room Access

The debate about gender equality and educational rights continues as an Illinois judge ruled that a Chicago transgender student can’t have open access to use the girl’s locker room at school. Instead, the student has to use a private area for changing inside the locker room. Judge Thomas Allen of Cook County heard the case.

The student attends Palatine High School. Her lawyers asked for a preliminary injunction in the case that would permit the student full use of the locker room until the case could be heard for a final decision. The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois filed the lawsuit on the student’s behalf. The judge says that there’s no need for a preliminary injunction, because there’s no irreparable harm in waiting for a decision at the end of the case.

The Chicago case is one of a number of cases that have emerged challenging gender equality in education. U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos rescinded policies that Barack Obama’s administration put in place regarding transgender students in schools. In the Chicago case, school district policy allows transgender students to use the locker room of the gender they prefer. However, the policy also requires transgender students to use a separate, private changing area.

The transgender student says that they only want to be “accepted.” The student says she’s insisting only on equal treatment compared to others at her school. She says that having to use a private changing area makes her late to class and even hurts her grade. She says when she’s accepted for who she is, her grades improve and she’s happier.

The school superintendent says that it’s a tough issue. He says that they want to provide access for all students based on gender identity. They also want to protect the privacy of all of their students. The superintendent says that they have to balance both issues. They say asking transgender students to use private changing stalls is the correct balance for everyone involved.

Gender equity groups say it amounts to discrimination. They say they aren’t asking for male students to have unrestricted access to the girl’s locker room. They say they’re only asking for everyone who identifies as female to have the same access. If the transgender student has to use a private changing area, they say, all students should have to change in private areas. Equality groups say that they’re still considering what to do in light of the judge’s decision.

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