Saturday, November 7, 2015

Chicago School District 211 Deprives Transgender Student

On Monday, Chicago School District 211 was blamed by the U.S Department of Education for violating the rights of a transgender student. The girl, who chooses to remain anonymous, wishes to have unlimited access to the girls locker room, but the school isn't allowing this to happen. The school believes that by allowing her unlimited access in the girls locker room, other students may start to feel uncomfortable. They made a proposal and told her that she could shower and change in the locker room, but it would have to be in a private area. The girl’s family didn't feel like that was good enough, and consequently through the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, filed a federal complaint against Illinois Palatine Township School District 211.

To the girls success, Catherine Lhamon, who's the Education Department's Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, declared that, "All students deserve the opportunity to participate equally in school programs and activities — this is a basic civil right" (Source). She continues by saying that the Township High School District 211 is not following the law because in July the U.S Justice Department ruled that “transgender students must be allowed to use the restroom that corresponds with their gender and that failure of doing this violates the Title IX of the U.S. Education Amendments of 1972” (Source). As a result, the District is being forced to allow the girl to have unlimited access as she pleased.

District 211 doesn't want to change its ways and they believe that “what they offer is reasonable and honors every student's dignity" (Source). However, the Education Department doesn’t care what the District believes in and is forcing them to grant the girl her rights within the next 30 days, or it will risk losing millions in federal funding. If they actually take away the school’s funding, it’s going to hurt the rest of the students. Do you think that is justified? Also, do you think that giving the girl full access in the locker rooms is a basic civil right, or a civil liberty that should only be granted only under certain circumstances? 



Rachael Howard said...

I think that the Education Department should not take away money from District 211 because that is way unfair to the other students. Instead I think that they should give money to the 211 district so they can create a gender neutral bathroom. I went to Gunn High school in Palo Alto the other day and they had a few of these types of bathrooms and I thought it was a good idea. This being said, I think they should create a gender neutral bathroom but still allow the transgender teen to access the girls locker room. I think if they had another bathroom/locker room that was gender neutral, it would give students different choices in bathrooms which would hopefully lead to every student being comfortable in the bathroom/ locker room they use. However, I do not think this is a situation that can have any wins because it isn't fair for other students if they truly feel uncomfortable but yet again it isn't fair for a transgender teen to have to go to a bathroom/locker room that they feel uncomfortable in. I do not think there is much legislation (if any) that talks about transgender civil rights/liberties to certain bathrooms/locker rooms and if there is, I am not familiar with it. However I think that legislation should be made. I think everyone has the right to feel comfortable in whatever bathroom or locker room they want to/can use.

Tara Young said...

I agree with Rachael that the Education Department should not take away money from the District as a consequence. It would hurt all of the other students. The purpose of the Education Department should be to help the education of the students; therefore, they would be defeating their own purpose. It is certainly a tricky situation. The girl should have the right to use the bathroom; however, it would take away from the right of all the other students to be comfortable in the bathroom. The other students should not be uncomfortable in the locker room. I think that Rachael's mention of gender neutral bathrooms is a good possible solution. It would protect the rights of all the students as it should be. I do not think that the Education Department's threat is justified because it seems to ignore all of the concerns and opinions of the rest of the school and only support the one girl's desires. Her desires should not encroach on the rights of others. I believe the right to use of the locker room should only be granted in certain circumstance. For example, a person should not be allowed open a stall door in the bathroom purposely while someone else is using it. It is a matter of privacy. This is similar to the situation with the transgender girl. She could be hurting the other students' privacy.

Anna Joshi said...

I agree with both Rachel and Tara that this is truly a sticky situation. I believe that the best solution to this may be a transgender bathroom idea which Rachael had proposed. This would then give students the right to use which ever bathroom they feel most comfortable with. Additionally, it would protect the rights of those who would feel violated if the transgender teen did go into the girl’s locker room. Although this is not ideally what this teen is fighting for, I believe that this may be the best compromise since it allows her, as well as the rest of the kids at school, the ability to choose which bathroom they feel comfortable with. Further, it ultimately protects the rights of those students who fervently do not feel comfortable with allowing her access into the girls’ locker room. If this truly is the best solution, then should every high school in the United States be required to have a gender neutral bathroom?

TJ Bonbright said...

To address Danny's first question, I see the Education Department being justified and doing the right thing to mean two separate things. Since District 211 is violating Title IX of the U.S. Education Amendments of 1972, then it is subject to punishment. There is a reason laws are made and enforced, and that is to maintain order. If people do not agree with a law, they can attempt to change the law in an orderly manner so that they are no longer in violation of the law. However, when people choose not to obey a law, then there must be consequences. Going by this logic, then yes, the Education Department is technically justified to impose this punishment; this is merely going along with the legal system this society has agreed to follow.

On the other hand, there is the question of whether or not the Education Department SHOULD impose this punishment. On this I do not find that the Education Department is making the correct decision. One issue I have with the current decision is, as Tara has mentioned, the Education Department seems to be favoring the interests of one individual over a much larger group, the other students using the locker rooms. Rachel's suggestion that the Education Department fund the construction of gender neutral bathrooms seems to be a step in the right direction. However, it seems that even if gender neutral restrooms were constructed, the girl would still not be satisfied, for she would still not have full access to a locker room. Building on the possibility of additional construction of facilities, I think it could be a good idea to build individual changing rooms that have personal showers. I do concede that this seems to be overly luxurious, and most definitely expensive, which is why I suggest that only a few of these structures be built. These changing rooms would probably take up the same amount of space as a single gender neutral bathrooms, so the school could place these changing rooms wherever gender neutral bathrooms would have been built. This solution would most likely satisfy the girl and her representatives because it proves that the district is taking the girl's considerations into account and provides her will all the accommodations as a typical locker room.

I don't think it should be required to grant this girl unrestricted access to the girl's locker room. While I support the protection of minority rights, I will not do so solely on the basis of supporting someone who happens to be a minority. There still is the majority to consider, after all. In this case, other girls in the locker room may feel uncomfortable in the presence of this girl. This is something that we should not overlook. I understand that this girl's feeling should also be considered, which is why I support some kind of compromise, but to completely dismiss District 211's attempt to do so and side completely is a mistake. Lhamon states that "All students deserve the opportunity to participate equally in school programs and activities," which is great and all, but this issue is not a typical one. This is not merely the case of one girl being excluded from a girl's locker room for some petty reason; this is someone who was previously a "boy" changing and showering with people who are girls, and have always been girls. I understand that this girl may now identify as a female, but the fact remains that, biologically, that has not always been the can. Therefore, it is understandable, and even justified, that the other girls at this school may not be comfortable granting this girl unrestricted access to the girls locker room. Sometimes treating everyone equally in not possible, and this applies to this issue. I'm not this girl, nor am I a girl at the school in question, so I cannot fully access the situation; however, from what information I am able to obtain, it seems that there are definitely compromises that can be made, and perhaps have already been made, that would benefit both parties without disregarding anyone's opinion entirely.

Danny Halawi said...

I agree with Rachael's opinion in that there really isn't going to be any win in this situation. Allowing the girl unlimited access in the locker room is going to result in at least some kids feeling uncomfortable, and not giving the girl full access will result in a loss for her. The idea of general neutral bathroom is an interesting one, but in my opinion, I'm not sure if it's actually going to result in any success. Here is my analysis on it: If they implement a general neutral bathroom, it might not help anyone because students who feel uncomfortable with the transgender girl coming into the locker room won't feel more comfortable with going to a neutral bathroom zone. I think the better solution, although a little unrealistic, is the individual changing rooms that TJ suggested. If everyone is changing alone, then no one can really complain about feeling uncomfortable, thus solving the core of the problem.

Also, I agree with Tara. The Education Department should not take away the money from the District. In my opinion, I believe that if they did this it wouldn't really do either party any justice because the majority of the students are going to get hurt. The whole point of forcing the school to allow the girl unlimited access is to benefit the well being of the students and to protect their rights. By taking away the funding, you are hurting more students than you're helping.

Regarding TJ's point of view, I understand where you're coming from in that the majority should be considered, but looking at history, if the majority's rights were always placed in front of the minority's, then America wouldn't be where it's at today. For example, during the civil rights movements, white people, who were the majority, were uncomfortable with blacks being in the same facilities as them; however, the blacks fighting is what lead to equality. If the blacks said to themselves, "We're the minority and we should just respect the majorities wishes," then blacks wouldn't have the rights they have today. Consequently, I believe that the girl should indeed fight for her rights, and I believe they should give her unlimited access.