Members of the Policy Committee of the District 202 School Board said they will submit a written policy to the full Board that would permit transgender students to use the locker room facilities of the gender with which they identify.
The committee, composed of two Board members, Gretchen Livingston and Pat Savage-Williams, discussed the matter at a meeting March 16 that was attended by other Board members, community members, and several students, some of whom held up signs registering their support for a more inclusive locker room policy.
While Evanston Township High School has relatively expansive diversity policies and student protections in place, the issue of transgender student use of locker rooms has gone unresolved. The school developed a policy in 2015, around the time a student lawsuit against Township High School District 211 in the Northwest suburbs compelled that district’s board, ultimately under threat of losing federal Title IX funds, to allow a transgender girl to use the girls’ locker room. But the ETHS policy was never put into place. In the meantime, transgender ETHS students have been using a third, gender-neutral locker room, should they wish not to use the locker room of the gender they were assigned at birth.
ETHS attorney Jennifer Smith said a number of circumstances caused the delay in implementing the policy. The District 211 decision was met with a lawsuit, financed by an anti-LGBT legal organization, from several student families. Transgender-affirming federal student guidelines issued by the Obama administration were promptly rescinded by the Trump administration. Also, the Supreme Court had long been expected to hear a case filed by a Virginia transgender student against his school, but decided not to do so, defeating many districts’ expectations of public accommodations guidelines from the ensuing legal precedent.
Ms. Livingston urged quick action on the matter, noting that students who were enrolled in school currently suffered while officials procrastinated. She also said the probability of a lawsuit should not be a deterrent, since at some point a transgender student could conversely file suit demanding improved access to the locker room facilities.
“We recognize that there are psychological risks for action, and psychological risks for inaction,” said ETHS Dean of Students Taya Kinzie.
Board member Mark Metz suggested that students might be more open and understanding about issues of gender identity than they got credit for, adding, “Maybe this is more about the adults than the kids.”
Many students indeed spoke to Mr. Metz’s idea during public comments. Grey Miller, who is transgender, uses and appreciates the gender-neutral locker room, but said that using the public accommodations one feels most comfortable in “should not be a privilege, [it] should be a right.”
Ben Salinger, an ETHS athlete, said he would have no problem sharing a locker room with a transgender teammate.
“This issue seems to be confusing for adults, but for us students, it is very simple,” said Mr. Salinger, who added that, regarding his team, “Any person who puts in effort for us, we will put in an effort for them.”
The Policy Committee will present the proposal at the April school board meeting.