Twenty-nine parents and students from Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 released an open letter Wednesday in support of giving all transgender students in the district full access to bathrooms and locker rooms corresponding to their gender identity.
Tracey Salvatore was among the parents who signed the open letter.
"Our daughters will soon be students in District 211," Salvatore said in a statement. "I - and the other parents who signed this letter - want all students to experience a school environment that celebrates diversity, and recognize that honoring the humanity and dignity of each student enriches the education of all students."
The ACLU of Illinois, which released the open letter on behalf of the parents and students, is representing a transgender student in the district. Through an agreement reached in December between the school district and U.S. Education Department, the transgender student was granted access to a gender-appropriate locker room with the requirement that she use private changing stations inside the facility.
The Education Department's Office of Civil Rights previously determined the district had violated Title IX by denying the student access to a gender-appropriate locker room and instead providing her with her own changing room in a separate facility.
A group of parents who oppose the transgender student's locker room access recently filed a lawsuit against the Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 and U.S. Departments of Justice and Education seeking to overturn the policy.
The ACLU of Illinois has filed a motion to intervene in the case on behalf of the transgender student.
In their open letter, students and parents urged the district to "vigorously" challenge the lawsuit and "defend the policies that have already been implemented without incident."
The letter signees stressed the importance of providing transgender students access to restrooms corresponding to their gender identity, rather then requiring them to use separate facilities.
"Such a policy," they wrote, "can send a signal to other students of intolerance and fear, suggesting that transgender students are different and should be shunned or avoided, and increases the chance that transgender students and other vulnerable students will be bullied or harassed in and out of school."
The letter added, "We believe, moreover, that the District can do better by clarifying that all transgender students may use the locker rooms consistent with their gender identity and without restricting these students, and only the students who are transgender, to dressing behind privacy curtains. We know that schools across the nation permit students who are transgender to use the gender-appropriate restrooms and locker rooms, without any reported problems or incidents. We implore the District to develop a policy that will ensure that every transgender student is treated fairly and respectfully. As a large and pre-eminent school district, District 211 can put into place a policy of the sort that has worked so well in other Illinois districts and nationwide."
The parents and students also addressed concerns about the locker room policy among some District 211 residents.
"We recognize that some students and parents have expressed fear about transgender students using the restrooms and locker rooms in our high schools. We recognize that these fears are based on the misunderstanding of students who are transgender and have often been presented as concerns about privacy," the letter reads. "We care about the privacy of all students in District 211. That said, no student can claim a privacy interest in refusing to share space with another person of the same sex, simply because the other person is different in some way.
"We respect anyone who has legitimate privacy concerns and urge the District to make alternative, private settings available to these individuals, rather than force students who are transgender out of communal space. Eighteen states and approximately two hundred cities protect transgender individuals' right to use the restroom that matches their gender identity. This has not led to any increase in crimes in restrooms. We can make this policy work in District 211."