Transgender CPS students to use bathroom that matches gender ID

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Sun-Times file photo

As other states debate which bathrooms transgender people should use, Chicago Public Schools made its policy perfectly clear Tuesday: They should use the one that matches their gender identity.

In other words, all students and teachers who identify themselves as girls or women are to use the ladies’ bathroom and locker room. And anyone who IDs as a boy or man gets to use the men’s room.

CPS chief education officer Janice Jackson announced the policies to “ensure every student and adult in the CPS family can participate in an environment of complete tolerance and respect. . . . It’s crucial for CPS guidelines to reflect our commitment to promoting safe and inclusive schools.”

In 2014, CPS declared that all transgender students in the district must be provided with the same opportunities for physical education, sex ed, sports and all school events as any other student. The district isn’t the first in Illinois to spell out rights for transgender students, but as the largest in the state, its changes certainly will make an impact.

The update, developed with help from the Lurie Children’s Gender and Sex Development Program, Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health and Lambda Legal, spells out that they also must get to use the restroom and locker room of their gender identity. Anyone who identifies as a girl should share hotel rooms on overnight field trips with girls, and the same for kids who identify as boys. And anyone who requests more privacy will be accommodated, including students who are questioning their gender identity.

Christopher Clark, a Lambda Legal attorney who provided CPS with inclusive policies from elsewhere in the country, called the updates “a positive step in the direction of good education policy.”

“What we’re seeing around the country in some state legislatures is really an attack on LGBTQ students,” Clark said, referring to people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning, “and really transgender and gender non-conforming students.”

Letting transgender students change their names and pronouns used to refer to them, and use facilities that match their gender ID — as opposed to forcing them to use the one that corresponds to their sex at birth — matters, Clark said. Failing to do those things leads to “bad outcomes for students,” he continued.

“Students don’t feel safe in restrooms,” he said. “They don’t feel recognized for who they are. That immediately creates a problem for that student’s learning.”

Similar rules will apply to adults who are transgender or questioning their gender. Adults will have the added protection of not being outed as transgender by co-workers or human resources staffers unless they have given consent.

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