The U.S. Department of Education on Monday sided with a transgender student in Palatine High School District 211 who has been denied access to a school locker room.
A written decision from the Education Department's Office of Civil Rights states that the district's move to deny the student, who identifies as female, full access to a gender-appropriate locker room and provide her with her own changing room violated Title IX.
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities in public and private schools that receive federal funding.
"What our client wants is not hard to understand. She wants to be accepted for who she is and to be treated with dignity and respect - like any other student," John Knight, director of the LGBT & HIV Project at the ACLU of Illinois, said in a news release. "The district's insistence on separating my client from other students is blatant discrimination. Rather than approaching this issue with sensitivity and dignity, the district has attempted to justify its conduct by challenging my client's identity as a girl."
The student, whose name has not been released, spoke to the importance of today's decision from the Education Department.
"This decision makes me extremely happy - because of what it means for me, personally, and for countless others," she was quoted as saying in the release. "The district's policy stigmatized me, often making me feel like I was not a 'normal person.'
"The Department of Education's decision makes clear that what my school did was wrong. I hope no other student, anywhere, is forced to confront this indignity. It is a good day for all students, but especially those who are transgender all across the nation."
UPDATE (12/03/15): High School District 211 Superintendent Daniel Cates pushed back on the Education Department's decision, saying in a statement Monday that the "district's course of action, including private changing stations in our locker rooms, appropriately serves the dignity and privacy of all students in our educational environment."
"District 211 is not excluding transgender students from their gender-identified locker room," the statement added. "Though our position has been inaccurately reported, a transgender student may use his or her gender-identified locker room simply by utilizing individual measures of privacy when changing clothes or taking showers."
The district says it will continue to participate in "what have been productive settlement negotiations" with the Education Department's Office of Civil Rights. However, the district is also "prepared to engage in all avenues of due process to determine whether our position of honoring the rights of all the students is within the law," Cates said.