“What we’re attempting to do in this case is stop the Department of Education from redefining sex in Title IX to include gender identity,” a lawyer says.
A group of 50 families whose children attend a high school in Illinois filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday, attempting to reverse a policy that allows a transgender student to use girls’ bathrooms, locker rooms, and other sex-specific facilities.
The families are challenging a policy at Township High School District 211 that was mandated by the U.S. Department of Education to accommodate the transgender student, who was born male but identifies as a female.
“It’s an organic group of parents and students who came together and said, ‘We have to do something about this—we can’t just roll over and allow the federal government to force our school to commingle the sexes in locker rooms,’” said Jeremy Tedesco, a lawyer representing the families.
The suit, which challenges the Education Department’s authority to redefine the term sex in Title IX of U.S. law to include gender identity and to enforce it against schools, is the first of its kind, Tedesco told The Daily Signal.
The president of the group filing the lawsuit, Students and Parents for Privacy, said she and other Cook County parents with children in the school district decided legal action “was the only thing we could do at this point.”
“We tried,” she said, adding:
We did everything we could to work with the school district, and we were really hoping they would do the right thing and protect the privacy of all students, but when they chose not to, we felt we had no choice in order to protect the girls in the locker room.
The group’s president asked that her name not be published because of the sensitive nature of the case.
The issue began in December 2013, when Student A filed a complaint with the Education Department against Township High School District 211, based in the village of Palatine, Ill.
The complaint alleged that District 211 had discriminated against the transgender student on the basis of sex.
After completing an extensive investigation, the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights said on Dec. 2 that Township High School District 211 was in violation of federal law for refusing to grant Student A full access to the girls’ locker room.
The school had granted Student A some accommodations, including changing the student’s name on official records, allowing the student on the girls sports teams, and granting the student access to the girls’ bathrooms. But District 211 drew the line at providing Student A unrestrained access to the girls’ locker rooms because of the privacy concerns of other girls using them. Instead, the school offered a private facility to Student A.
Daniel Cates, superintendent of District 211, said in an October newsletter:
The goal of the district in this matter is to protect the privacy rights of all students when changing clothes or showering before or after physical education and after-school activities, while also providing reasonable accommodations to meet the unique needs of individual students. Our responsibility is to provide an environment conducive to learning for all its 12,000+ students.
According to the Education Department’s investigation, the student felt “crushed” by the school district’s decision not to allow access to the locker rooms, “which she said indicated that the school did not accept her as a female.”
After the Education Department had completed its investigation, it ordered District 211 to grant Student A full access to the girls’ locker rooms and install privacy curtains inside those locker rooms, or else be at risk of losing federal financial assistance.
Thomas Petersen, director of community relations at Township High School District 211, said the school “could potentially lose up to $6 million in federal funding.”
Now, the 130 parents and students who are members of the group Students and Parents for Privacy are suing, arguing the Education Department lacks the authority to redefine sex in Title IX of U.S. law to include gender identity.
The parents and students also are asking for an injunction against the Justice Department, which has enforcement authority under Title IX, and an injunction against Township School District 211 from carrying out the Education Department’s demands.
“What we’re attempting to do in this case is stop the Department of Education from redefining sex in Title IX to include gender identity,” Tedesco, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, told The Daily Signal. “It has no authority whatsoever to do that.”
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