A transgender student is suing her northwest suburban school district for the right to use the locker room of her choice to change for gym class.
Nova Maday, through attorney’s with the American Civil Liberties Union, filed the lawsuit Thursday in Cook County Circuit Court and says Township High School District 211 violated the Illinois Human Rights Act by treating her differently from other female students.
Maday, an 18-year-old senior at a Palatine High School, has presented as female at school since October 2014, according to the suit. She dresses and does her hair in the style of other girls her age, uses a feminine name and female pronouns, as well as female restrooms in public places.
Beginning in the fall of 2015, Maday began to experience anxiety and depression related to her gender dysphoria — a mismatch between a person’s gender identity and the gender identity they were assigned at birth — because of her school’s requirement that she change for gym class separately from other girls. As a result, her gym class grade and mental health declined.
Maday began using a separate locker room to change for gym in February 2016, the suit says. But the locked locker room had to be opened by a teacher and made her late for class. Previously, the district allowed her to use the nurses’ office to change.
Despite wanting to participate in gym class, Maday eventually decided to take a waiver while she and her mother tried to work with the school to reach a solution.
In July, district administrators met with Maday and her mother, and for the first time, offered her use of the girls locker room on the condition that she dress in “an unspecified privacy area,” the suit says. Maday and her mother declined the offer “because the district does not require non-transgender girls to dress in a privacy area.” Instead, as they had done previously, Maday accepted a waiver from attending gym class.
Based on Maday’s conversations with other girls, she believes students at her school “do not fully disrobe when changing in the locker rooms for P.E. and take steps to minimize the chance that other girls will see their bodies,” the suit says. Maday “would do the same.”
Being excluded from the girls locker room “has been extremely upsetting” for Maday, including that it “makes her feel like an outcast and something less than a real person,” according to the suit.
In addition to a court order directing the district to allow all transgender students to use the locker room consistent with their gender identity, Maday also seeks unspecified damages for emotional distress and an order requiring the school district pay the cost of bringing the lawsuit.
District 211 Supt. Daniel Cates said in a statement that the allegations in the suit “misrepresent the accommodations extended to this student and District 211’s approach to working with and supporting transgender students.”
“Every transgender student in District 211 who has requested use of the locker room of their identified gender has been offered such access, along with other supports within an individual support plan,” Cates said.
Cates also said that the Illinois Department of Human Rights has already dismissed the case after finding that “there was no evidence of discrimination.”
A representative for IDHR could not immediately be reached for comment Friday afternoon.