HSD 211 transgender suit drops feds as defendants

Alliance Defending Freedom, a non-profit legal organization, recently removed the US Justice and Education departments as defendants from a lawsuit over transgender student access in Township High School District 211’s bathrooms and locker rooms, the Illinois Journal & Topics reports.

District 211’s policies are still the focus of the lawsuit, however, which was filed by ADF on behalf of about 50 families. ADF reportedly dropped the federal departments as a result of the federal government dropping President Barack Obama’s guidance regarding Title IX enforcement in transgender cases, which came in the form of a Dear Colleague Letter.

In January 2016, District 211 allowed a student born male but identifying as a female to go into a girls’ locker room at Fremd High School in Palatine. The feds threatened to withhold funding, district officials believed, based on the letter, but no funding was ever actually withheld on the basis of the district’s transgender policies.

ADF claims in the lawsuit that other students’ privacy rights are violated by the district’s policies regarding transgender students.

The student in question graduated in May 2016, but the lawsuit persists.

In March, the Supreme Court of the United States remanded a transgender case similar to this one to the lower court, leaving unanswered key questions about how schools should handle this issue from a legal perspective.

“We’re disappointed,” the Washington Post quoted Bob Farrace, spokesman for the National Association of Secondary School Principals, as saying about the decision not to hear the case. Mr Farrace said the group, in a friend-of-the-court brief backing the transgender student’s rights, had “highlighted that school leaders need clarity on policies that support the rights of transgender students. Kicking it back to states only exacerbates that need.”

The trend seems to be federal authorities in the education department and in the Supreme Court kicking this question back to states and, ultimately as a result, to individual school districts. In other words, the Supreme Court remanded the Virginia case back to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which then remanded the case back to the district court. The Supreme Court’s decision to vacate the verdict and remand the case also came after the Trump administration rescinded the Obama-era guidance.

Without the Title IX guidance from the federal government, the whole question may, in fact, be moot. The case goes on anyway.

“We are disappointed by the delay but not discouraged,” the Daily Press in Newport News, Virginia, quoted Gail Deady, the Secular Society Women’s Rights Legal Fellow at the ACLU of Virginia, as saying. “We look forward to Gavin finally having his day in court. We look forward to finally having the opportunity to show how the Gloucester School Board’s policy has harmed him and continues to harm him.”

Gavin Grimm, the transgender Virginia student, has also graduated, and that fact may also weigh into the consideration as to whether the question is moot. I learn more about the similarities between the Illinois case and the Virginia every day.

About the Author

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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