Settlement Reached with Palatine, Ill., Township High School District 211 to Remedy Transgender Discrimination

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Settlement Reached with Palatine, Ill., Township High School District 211 to Remedy Transgender Discrimination

December 3, 2015

The U.S. Department of Education announced today that it has entered into a resolution agreement with Township High School District 211 based in Palatine, Illinois, after finding the district in violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 for discriminating against a transgender high school student by denying her access to the girls' locker rooms.

The case marked the first time that the Department's Office for Civil Rights had found a school district in violation of civil rights laws over transgender issues.

"I commend the Board of Education of Township High School District 211 for taking steps necessary to protect civil rights as well as student privacy," said Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights. "We are grateful that the board and superintendent chose to come into full compliance with our nation's civil rights laws. And, we look forward to partnering with the district to assure that the terms of this agreement are fully and effectively implemented."

The events leading up to today's announcement began in earnest on Nov. 2 when OCR issued a letter of findings to the district. The letter notified the district that it was in violation of Title IX, which protects all students, including transgender students, from sex discrimination in K-12 districts that receive federal funding.

OCR concluded that the district violated Title IX because, for more than two school years, the district had denied a transgender student access to the girls' locker rooms at her high school, and offered her only separate facilities to change clothes for her athletics activities and mandatory physical education classes in order to satisfy the graduation requirements and receive a high school diploma.

The office noted that the district had previously designated the student as female in its computer system. And, that it had given the student unlimited access to all girls' restrooms in the school and allowed her to participate in girls' athletics.

At a special meeting Wednesday night, the District 211 school board approved a settlement to address the issues raised in OCR's letter of findings and begin the process to bring the district in compliance with civil rights laws.

Under the agreement, the district agreed to take the following specific actions:

  • Provide the student with access to the girls' locker rooms at her high school based on the student's request to change in private changing stations in the girls' locker rooms.
  • Protect the privacy of its students by installing sufficient privacy curtains within the girls' locker rooms at the high school to accommodate the transgender student and any students who wish to be assured of privacy.
  • Provide a reasonable alternative for any student requesting additional privacy—beyond the privacy afforded by the privacy curtains—in the girls' locker rooms. Examples could include use of another private area or assignment of a locker in near proximity to the office of a teacher or coach.
  • Coordinate with hosts of off-campus, district-sponsored activities to arrange for the transgender student to be provided access to facilities for female students.
  • Engage a consultant (who may be a district employee) with expertise in child and adolescent gender identity, including transgender and gender nonconforming youth, to support and assist the district in implementing the resolution agreement.
  • Establish a support team, if requested by the transgender student and her parents, to ensure that she has access and the opportunity to participate in all district programs and activities, and is otherwise protected from gender-based discrimination at school.
  • Adopt and publish a revised notice of nondiscrimination on the basis of sex. And,
  • Provide OCR with a copy or detailed description of all gender-based discrimination or harassment complaints or incidents.

A copy of the Nov. 2 letter of findings can be found here, and the agreement is posted here.

OCR's mission is to ensure equal access to education and promote educational excellence throughout the nation through the vigorous enforcement of civil rights. OCR is responsible for enforcing federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination by educational institutions on the basis of disability, race, color, national origin, sex, and age, as well as the Boy Scouts of America Equal Access Act of 2001.

For details on how OCR handles civil rights cases, please click here.