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Attempt to overturn Palatine school transgender policy fails

Bathroom and locker room access for transgender students has become the focus of a legal battle in Palatine Township High School District 211 | Associated Press file photo

PALATINE, Ill. — Some Chicago suburban school board members who approved a policy allowing a transgender student to use the girl’s locker room survived an election challenge mounted by angry parents.

The Palatine Township High School District 211 policy allows transgender students to use the locker rooms and bathrooms of the gender with which they identify; the implementation of that policy prompted three opponents to run for the school board.

With 146 of 147 precincts counted in unofficial totals, incumbents Anna Klimkowicz and Robert Lefevre Jr. along with former board member Edward Yung won re-election to the board, the Daily Herald is reporting.

“I think the community is aware of the transgender issue, but is supportive of the solution that we came up with because it was the most fair for all students,” Anna Klimkowicz, one of the board members, told the Daily Herald.

School officials previously offered the anonymous student a separate changing facility, but President Barack Obama’s administration threatened to withhold millions of dollars in funding. U.S. officials argued the district was in violation of Title IX legal protections against sex discrimination.

The district in response made a deal with the student in December 2015, agreeing to let her use the girls’ locker room with the understanding she would use a private changing station that other students also can access.

In February, under the new administration of President Donald Trump, the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice on Friday reversed their stance in the case, withdrawing support that had been given by the Obama administration. Instead, the Trump administration wants states and school districts to interpret U.S. anti-discrimination law and determine bathroom access rights for students.

In the Palatine case, the student sought help from the American Civil Liberties Union before she filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, alleging the district discriminated against her by denying her full access to the locker room.

Following review, federal authorities found the district had violated Title IX, and the district granted the student access to the locker room. In the aftermath of that decision, which civil rights groups called a major victory, a group of parents filed a lawsuit against the district in May 2016, claiming their students’ constitutional rights to privacy were being violated.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey Gilbert recommended a decision in favor of the school district, writing in October that high school students do not have a constitutional protection against sharing locker rooms or bathrooms with transgender peers.

The parents had sought an injunction to temporarily suspend the student’s access to the bathroom until the lawsuit was resolved, but that request was denied.

Contributing: Nader Issa