PALATINE, Illinois, December 7, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – The nation's third largest school district will allow a biological male to use female facilities, bowing to the Obama administration's threat to withdraw federal funding from the district.
According to The Washington Post, the school board voted 5-2 in favor of changing its policies. Township High School District 211 Superintendent Daniel Cates framed the vote as a victory because the student said he would change behind a curtain, and because the agreement applies only to the one student.
“The agreement protects student privacy and will best serve our total school community,” Cates said in a statement. “From the outset, our public statements have consistently conveyed the District's position that unrestricted access by transgender students in our open locker rooms is unacceptable because gender is not the same as anatomy.”
The Washington Post says the district will make sure the male student has access to female locker rooms when traveling with his sports team and will set up what the newspaper called “a support team” to guarantee access to the school district's activities and programs. The school will also publish a new version of its nondiscrimination policies related to sex and hire a consultant to help the agreement be implemented.
“We are grateful that the board and superintendent chose to come into full compliance with our nation's civil rights laws,” said Catherine E. Lhamon, the Education Department's assistant secretary for civil rights. “And we look forward to partnering with the district to assure that the terms of this agreement are fully and effectively implemented.”
Lhamon's interpretation of the agreement differs sharply from Cates's; Lhamon said any transgender student would be able to use facilities of his or her choice and that the student's promise to change privately is not binding.
The ACLU decried the agreement, with a spokesperson saying that the school district “continues to demonstrate a wanton ignorance of the science of gender by persisting in drawing a false distinction between transgender persons' gender and anatomy. Let me be clear. My client is a girl – full stop.”
The federal government and the school district have battled for months over a transgender student's desire to use opposite-sex restrooms, locker rooms, and other facilities. District officials say they attempted to compromise, including by allowing any student with gender dysphoria to use a gender-neutral bathroom, or having the option to have a privacy curtain in the girls' locker room.
“At some point, we have to balance the privacy rights of 12,000 students with other particular, individual needs of another group of students,” said Cates earlier this year. “We believe this infringes on the privacy of all the students that we serve.”
In November, Cates also called the federal government's decision to sue the district “a serious overreach with precedent-setting implications.”
This wasn't enough for the ACLU, which represented the student, or the Obama administration. In a letter sent to school officials, the Office for Civil Rights of the Department of Education declared that it found “by the preponderance of the evidence that the District is in violation of Title IX for excluding Student A from participation in and denying her the benefits of its education program, providing services to her in a different manner, subjecting her to different rules of behavior, and subjecting her to different treatment on the basis of sex.”
The administration reinterpreted Title IX in 2014, deciding that sex discrimination could be expanded to include gender identity. Its decision to back the student was under this interpretation.
Alliance Defending Freedom legal counsel Matt Sharp told LifeSiteNews that Cates shouldn't have backed down.
“When you look at Title IX, and what it actually says, this exact issue was debated 40 years ago, when it came up,” said Sharp. Congress decided that “whenever you've got privacy and safety interests, schools can maintain these distinctions. So they wrote it into the law, and into the regulations.”
The law is “very clear and unambiguous,” explained Sharp, echoing his colleague Jeremy Tedesco, who told LifeSiteNews this summer that “it would take an act of Congress to include 'gender identity' as a protected status under Title IX.”
Sharp pointed to how the administration has tried to get around the law by changing what the definition of sex is. “The reason they are doing it this way, is that for the past five years, I think it was Senator Al Franken [of Minnesota who] has tried to amend Title IX, and to amend all of these laws to add sexual orientation and gender identity protection. And it has failed every time.”
Sharp said legal precedent would have been on the side of the school district had it stood against the administration in court. “We've had courts in Pennsylvania and Virginia this year, on this exact issue, of a transgender student demanding access to the opposite-sex restrooms, of not being satisfied with a gender-neutral, single-stall restroom.”
“Courts looked at Title IX, and they looked at privacy rights of the other students impacted by this. And they said, 'You know what? If Congress wants to change this, Congress can do it. But Obama administration, you have no right to rewrite the law, and the interests of other students are important here.'”
“It's a win-win for everybody. But that's not good enough for this administration,” said Sharp, who said that had the school district fought the administration, it would have kept its federal funding until its legal options were exhausted. He also noted that Title IX allows a school that loses its case to have 30 days after a report is submitted to Congress to “come into compliance.”
“The administration is basically holding these students hostage,” concluded Sharp.
The Chicago-area district is not the first to bow to federal threats to remove funding. America's largest school district, in Fairfax County, Virginia, added gender identity as a protected class when the Obama administration insisted on the change, much to the anger of parents and local social conservatives.