Thursday, October 20, 2016

Federal Court Issues Recommendation Upholding Transgender Student’s Right to Use Locker Room and Restroom

One of the most watched cases on transgender rights in the Chicago area has been the student rights case at Fremd High School in District 211. As readers may recall, a student assigned male at birth but now identifying as female sought access to the female locker room. In response to concerns from parents other than those of the student’s, the district tried to resolve the issue by giving the transgender student a separate area to change which was close to but not in the girls’ locker room. The student and her parents filed a claim with the Office of Civil Rights arguing that the district was violating her Title IX rights, which prohibits discrimination based on gender in school programs and services. 

The OCR found that requiring transgender students to use a separate room apart from the locker room to change violated Title IX. The OCR also acknowledged that the student in question, her parents and the district had reached an agreement that the student would use a private area in the girls’ locker room to change.

A citizen’s group then filed a lawsuit against the district and the Departments of Justice and Education seeking to reverse the OCR order and reverse the agreement which provides a private area in the girls’ locker room for the transgender student to change. Part of the remedy the citizen’s group is seeking is a preliminary injunction on locker room arrangement.

Yesterday, a federal magistrate judge issued a recommendation against issuance of the preliminary injunction stating, among other reasons that the plaintiffs had not shown they have a likelihood of success in the case, or that the U.S. Department of Education had violated federal law by requiring that schools permit transgender students to use restrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity.

While this is only a recommendation by the judge, it may serve as a peek into how the court may view transgender rights under Title IX.  Stay tuned…