Chicago Schools Update Guidelines for Transgender Students

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

Updated guidelines for Chicago Public Schools have been announced, including a statement concerning transgender and gender nonconforming students. The guidelines informed these students that they would be allowed to use the restrooms and locker rooms that correspond to their gender identities.

Appropriate adaptations will be made for students who do not identify as female or male and for students who are unsure as to their gender identity, according to the guidelines. If a student has “a need or desire for increased privacy,” he or she should receive “reasonable alternative arrangements” that might include a single-stall restroom or a private area.

The guidelines also contain the first protocols for employees and adults who assist in or volunteer for activities in CPS, and are transgender.

The guidelines were published at a time when the debate is raging over transgender and gender nonconforming people in the GOP presidential race, religions, and a federal legal battle in the city of Palatine.

CPS developed the new rules with the assistance of the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health, Mikva Challenge, Illinois Safe School Alliance, Lambda Legal, and Lurie Children’s Gender and Sex Development Program.

“This is a great step toward a truly equal and inclusive public school system for transgender students in Chicago,” Christopher Clark, Lambda Legal’s youth program strategist, said in a statement. “At a time when we are seeing attacks on the most vulnerable members of our community, Chicago is instead taking steps to protect and affirm transgender people.”

The updates also changed the guidelines to allow students and employees to be addressed by “the name and pronoun” that matches their gender identity, reports Juan Perez, Jr. for the Chicago Tribune.

Court orders or gender re-assignment will no longer be required for staffers and students to change their official records to reflect their stated identities, and the district database will add the students’ requested gender and names. The information on the student database will also be confidential.

Information about an employee’s birth gender is regarded as classified medical data. The same guidelines apply to students. Staffers are not allowed to share a student’s transgender or nonconforming state to other staff members, guardians, parents, or third parties without the permission of the student.

The US Department of Education intervened when Palatine-based Township High School District 211 infringed on civil rights laws with its locker room access policy.

The DoE’s civil rights office decided the district had violated Title IX, which outlaws discrimination based on a person’s sex. Had the district ignored this finding, it risked losing millions of dollars of federal funding, along with facing a possible legal battle. The case was settled and students were allowed to use the locker rooms with which they identified.

According to Aamer Madhani of USA Today, the guidelines established for the first time policies concerning not only restrooms and locker rooms but also overnight trip accessibility, sports, clubs, and school events.

The changes in CPS rules are taking place while Illinois lawmakers are examining HB 4474 that restricts transgender citizens of the state, writes WGN-TV and Sean Lewis. The bill would require that transgender and nonconforming gender students to use separate restrooms and locker rooms.

And in the press release published by CPS, it is explained that a student administrative support team at each school will develop confidential support plans for each student so they will be ensured of receiving the resources and supports needed to be successful.