CHICAGO – A suburban Chicago school district has approved a deal allowing a transgender student a separate changing area in a girls' locker room.
The Township High School District 211 school board in Palatine met for hours Wednesday, hearing public comments and then meeting in closed session.
The vote came after the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights ruled last month that the district violated federal law by not permitting the student — who was born male and identifies as female — full access to the locker room. But with the settlement, the student has agreed to use the private areas to change and shower.
The district had proposed the compromise allowing access to the locker room but requiring the student to change and shower in a separate area.
The Department of Education said Thursday it had entered into the resolution agreement with the district.
"We are grateful that the board and superintendent chose to come into full compliance with our nation's civil rights laws," Education Department Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine Lhamon said in the statement. "And, we look forward to partnering with the district to assure that the terms of this agreement are fully and effectively implemented."
District Superintendent Daniel Cates said in a statement after the vote that the settlement only applies to the student involved, and isn't a district-wide policy.
The student had filed a federal complaint against the district with assistance from the American Civil Liberties Union. John Knight with the ACLU of Illinois said in a statement Thursday the organization is pleased the school board voted to enter into the agreement allowing locker room access, but said the settlement "falls well short of our hopes."
"The agreement approved last night only addresses the needs of our client, not other transgender students," Knight said. "This is a terrible mistake."
The district had 30 days to change its policy following the Department of Education's finding, or risk losing millions of dollars in federal funding. Cates said the agreement ends risk of further litigation regarding the complaint, as well as of losing funding.