Saturday, December 05, 2015

Illinois School District Settles With OCR in Locker Room Case

The school district in Palatine, Illinois has agreed to a settlement with the Department of Education that will resolve the agency's findings made last month that the high school's exclusion of a transgender student from girls' locker room violates Title IX. Specifically, the school district has agreed to allow the student in question, who identifies as female, to change in the the girls' locker with the other girls, on the condition that she use private changing stations located within the locker room. The district must also install privacy curtains and provide additional accommodations for any student who desire enhanced privacy.

The Department of Education notes that this case is the first time it has found discrimination against a transgender student to violate Title IX. Notably, however, it is not requiring the school district to adopt a general policy of inclusion but merely to provide access to this particular student who had already agreed to (and in fact, requested) the opportunity to use a private changing station within the girls locker room. It appears to me that the agency was giving up the opportunity to compel a broader remedy for the sake of compromise; yet despite the settlement's narrow focus (and that fact that no settlement would have jeopardized the school district's federal funding) the school district's decision to endorse the agreement was reportedly not an easy one. The fact that a three-hour meeting was required to endorse the settlement unfortunately demonstrates considerable resistance to transgender inclusion. It was heartening, however, to read that many students supported the deal.