PALATINE, Ill. (CBS) — A nearly four-year fight over restroom and locker room access for transgender students in the northwest suburbs is over.
As CBS 2’s Tara Molina reported, the Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 board on Thursday voted to give transgender students unrestricted access to locker rooms and restrooms. The vote was 5-2.
The district’s superintendent said this policy doesn’t mean anyone can just go into any locker room or restroom at any time. The policy requires a student and parent to have communication with the district and come up with a plan.
Palatine-Schaumburg High School District votes YES on unrestricted access to locker rooms for transgender students.
5 yes votes, 2 no.
— Tara Molina (@TaraMolinaTV) November 15, 2019
“We believe it is time now to move forward with this policy, though we would not plan to implement it until the start of second semester in January,” school district Supt. Dan Cates said before the vote.
During the public comment period before the vote, one teen who identified herself as a student in the district expressed discomfort with unrestricted locker room access.
“I do not want to see a transgender student naked in the locker room,” she said. “I do not want a transgender student to see me naked in the locker room.”
But another student said: ““Anyone can use the changing rooms if they want to, but no one should be forced to…. The district should be helping transgender students, not putting more obstacles in front of them.”
For almost four years, transgender students in the district have had to use the nurse’s office or private stalls to change clothes.
The issue goes back to 2015, when a transgender student only known as “Student A,” and who identified as a girl and wanted to use the girls’ locker room, was not given unrestricted access.
The federal Office of Civil Rights at the time said that was a violation of non-discrimination law and give the district 30 days to comply or else jeopardize its Title IX funding.
The district reached an agreement with the government and allowed that student to use a private changing stall in the girls’ locker room, but did not adopt a district-wide policy on the issue, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois.
Student Nova Maday, who is also transgender and identifies as female, sued the district separately in 2017 over locker room access.
Maday told CBS 2’s Mai Martinez at the time that she began living as a girl in her freshman year at Palatine High School. But instead of being allowed to use the locker room, school officials said she could change in the nurse’s office or a private area.
Maday said in 2017 that she had never had any of the other girls tell her they are uncomfortable with her changing in the same locker room and, as a result, did not understand the motives behind the school district’s way of handling the situation.
Maday’s attorneys said the fact she is anatomically male has nothing to do with her gender identity, and should have no relevance on whether she’s allowed access to the girls’ locker room.
In January 2018, a judge sided with the school districrt and denied a motion for a preliminary injunction that would have allowed Maday to use the girls’ locker room the second semester of her senior year. Maday appealed, but the Illinois Appellate Court ruled that the matter was moot once Maday graduated.
Maday came back for the vote Thursday night and said she was overjoyed by the successful vote.
“I don’t want anyone else to go through what I went through,” Maday said. It’s just a win. It really is. It’s a huge win for us. It’s something we’ve been fighting for for years and other students have been fighting for for years, and to see this finally happening is just huge and exciting.”