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School Violated Law by Denying Transgender Student Access to Locker Room

An Illinois school district's decision to deny a transgender student full access to the girls' locker room is unlawful, says U.S. government.

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The federal government ruled Monday that the Palatine school district in Illinois was in violation of anti-discrimination laws when it barred a transgender student who identifies as female from changing or showering in the girls' locker room. The unidentified student, who participates on a girls' sports team at the school, was required to use a different area of the locker room, behind privacy curtains that made her feel like she was "not a normal person."

"All students deserve the opportunity to participate equally in school programs and activities," said Catherine Lhamon, the U.S. Department of Education's assistant secretary for civil rights, in a statement. "This is a basic civil right. Unfortunately, Township High School District 211 is not following the law because the district continues to deny a female student the right to use the girls' locker room."

The school district's superintendent, Daniel Cates, disagrees with the finding, saying the school has not broken any laws. He feels the current arrangement accommodates the privacy and comfort of not only the transgender student, but the other girls in the locker room—a position Cates says district parents agree with. The student says whether to change behind a curtain should be up to her.

"The district's insistence on separating my client from other students is blatant discrimination," reads a statement from the American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing the student.

The federal government is giving the school district 30 days to provide the transgender teen with full access to the locker room, or it faces loss of funding in the neighborhood of $6 million for its 12,000 students. This decision will likely have far-reaching implications for the treatment of transgender individuals in other school districts across the country.

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Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Follow her on Twitter (@Spitupnsuburbs), where she chronicles her love of exercising and drinking coffee, but never simultaneously.