The U.S. Department of Education has just made a monumental decision on the issue of transgender students' rights within the American education system.
As reported by The New York Times, on Monday (Nov. 2) the DOE's Office for Civil Rights completed its investigation of a complaint waged against Township High School District 211 in Palatine, Illinois nearly two years prior, finding that it was an act of discrimination for a transgender high school student to be denied access to girls' locker rooms on the basis of sex.
OCR interviewed the complainant, who is called "Student A" in their official letter to the school district's superintendent Dr. Daniel E. Cates, and found that the acts of her high school violated Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prevents discrimination on the basis of sex in any education program or activity which receives federal funding.
"Student A," the report details, had begun her transition during middle school -- including legally changing her name, receiving federal documentation (a passport) reflecting her female gender, and receiving hormone therapy. She participated in girls' athletics and used the girls' restrooms on campus but was denied access to the girls' locker rooms and was instead expected to use a separate facility to change clothes during P.E. and athletic events at the school, despite several requests by herself and her family.
"All students deserve the opportunity to participate equally in school programs and activities — this is a basic civil right," said the DOE's Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Catherine Lhamon, in a statement about the department's decision. "Unfortunately, Township High School District 211 is not following the law because the district continues to deny a female student the right to use the girls’ locker room."
The superintendent to whom the letter was addressed, however, disagreed with the ruling, stating that it was "a serious overreach with precedent-setting implications."
Indeed, while this decision was factually based upon the Illinois educational institution at hand, there are sweeping implications for its impact on other programs and their availability of facilities.
"This is telling [other districts] that they have to respect all students' gender identities," Demoya Gordon, an LGBT civil rights attorney, explained to NYT.