January 5, 2018 at 4:25 pm EST | by Chris Johnson
Judge rejects request to bar trans kids from restroom at Ill. school
Bilal Ahmed

A federal judge has rejected a request at a Chicago-area school requiring trans kids to use the restroom consistent with their gender identity.

A federal judge over the holidays rejected a request from an anti-LGBT legal group to block transgender kids from using the school restroom in a Chicago-area high school consistent with their gender identity.

On Dec. 29, U.S. District Jorge Alonso in a 14-page decision rejected a request from parents who objected to the policy at Township High School District 211 to overturn a magistrate judge’s determination in favor of the school allowing trans kids to use the restroom of their choice.

“Notably, District 211’s practice of allowing transgender students to use the restrooms of the gender with which they identify was implemented nearly three years before the filing of this action,” Alonso writes. “As the magistrate judge observed, either student plaintiffs did not notice that transgender students were using restrooms consistent with their gender identity, or they knew and tolerated it for several years. The passage of time therefore further undermines plaintiffs’ claim of irreparable harm.”

Citing the ruling of the magistrate judge, Alonso writes he agrees “[t]here is no indication that anything has negatively impacted girl plaintiffs’ education.”

A group calling itself Students and Parents for Privacy as well as five current or prospective students of Township High School District 211 initiated the complaint after the Obama administration issued guidance requiring schools to allow transgender kids to use the restroom consistent with their gender identity. The basis of the guidance was Title IX of the Education Amendment of 1972, which bars sex discrimination in schools.

Magistrate Judge Jeffrey Gilbert upheld the policy last year. Although much of the magistrate decision’s decision was rendered moot after the Trump administration subsequently revoked the Obama-era guidance last year, the plaintiffs continued their objections in federal court.

Alonso, however, rejected the request for relief on the basis of rulings from the U.S. Supreme Court broadly interpreting federal prohibitions on sex discrimination to apply to sex stereotyping as well as a U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals decision in favor of allowing a transgender kid in Kenosha School District to use the restroom consistent with his gender identity.

“The school district in Whitaker unsuccessfully defended its policy with the same argument as plaintiffs advance here, i.e., that allowing transgender students access to restrooms based on their gender identity infringes on the privacy rights of other students with whom they do not share biological anatomy,” Alonso writes. “The court here is similarly unpersuaded. This case does not involve the forced or extreme invasions of privacy that the courts addressed in the cases cited by Plaintiffs.”

Alonso also points out each of the school restrooms at Township High School District 211 has privacy stalls that can be used by students seeking an additional layer of privacy and single-use facilities are also available upon request.

“Given these protections, there is no meaningful risk that a student’s unclothed body need be seen by any other person,” Alonso writes.

Representing the plaintiffs who sued over the school policy was Alliance Defending Freedom, an anti-LGBT legal group designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Gary McCaleb, a senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, said in a blog post an appeal to the 7th Circuit was likely after the decision.

“School policies should promote the rights and safety of all students, no matter who they are, but the school district placed its political preferences ahead of that and ahead of the law,” McCaleb said. “Because the court should have suspended the district’s privacy-violating policies, we will likely appeal.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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