Transgender student sues District 211 for denial of locker room access

A transgender girl at Palatine High School sued Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 Thursday for being denied access to the girls locker room.

Just over two years after Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 became a major battleground in the national debate over transgender access to bathrooms and locker rooms, a Palatine High School senior sued the district Thursday for being denied such access.

Nova Maday, 18, has lived as a girl for most of her high school career and has had to change for gym class in private areas away from the girls locker room against her wishes, said Ed Yohnka, spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois.

But District 211 Superintendent Dan Cates disputed the lawsuit’s claims and said the Illinois Department of Human Rights had already dismissed them, saying there was no evidence of discrimination.

“The allegations in this lawsuit misrepresent the accommodations extended to this student and District 211’s approach to working with and supporting transgender students,” Cates said in a written statement. “District 211 has provided caring and responsive supports for transgender students who daily use bathrooms and locker rooms of their gender identity in multiple schools.

“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 continued. “We will vigorously defend and protect compassionate, fair and equitable support for all students, and, at the same time, we continue to defend our supports for transgender students at the federal level.”

But in a written statement of her own Thursday, Maday described the ways she felt her treatment by the school district fell short of her rights and expectations.

“I just want to be treated like every other girl in our school,” Maday said. “Even after the school district agreed to allow another transgender student to use the locker rooms in her school, they have resisted and made things harder for me. I just want to be able to get dressed for P.E. classes without having to jump through a bunch of hoops.”

In the fall of 2015, a transgender girl identified only as Student A filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights claiming that she was being discriminated against in being denied access to a girls locker room at Fremd High School in Palatine.

After federal officials found District 211 to be out of compliance with current standards, a compromise was reached in which Student A was allowed to use the locker room as long as she always used a private changing stall within. Several stalls were put in that any girl could use.

Student A graduated last spring, and the agreement that allowed her and her alone that limited access expired.

But even while that earlier debate was going on and Student A’s agreement was in effect, school officials were denying Maday’s request to use the girls locker room at Palatine High School, Yohnka said.

“It’s disappointing and it’s regrettable that you reach this point with a district again,” he said.

ACLU officials, who are among Maday’s representatives in the lawsuit, said she’s been regularly required to change for gym class in either a nurse’s office or a locked private changing area far from the gym. On one occasion, the locker containing Maday’s clothes was torn out of that area for a renovation and that she had to retrieve her clothes from a loading dock, the ACLU says.

During the debate over Student A’s access, District 211 board members decided against a single policy for all transgender students, opting instead to handle each request individually.

Student A’s agreement triggered a lawsuit by a citizens group called Students and Parents for Privacy which is still pending in federal court despite the agreement’s expiration. District 211 and the ACLU of Illinois remain co-defendants in that suit.

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