CHICAGO – A federal court Friday allowed to proceed an Alliance Defending Freedom lawsuit that defends the privacy of students at an Illinois school district. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois ruled that parents may pursue their Title IX and religious freedom claims against Township High School District No. 211 policies that authorize opposite-sex use of students’ locker rooms, restrooms, and showers.
“We need a compassionate approach to protecting students’ privacy, and we welcome the court’s decision to allow key claims to move forward,” said ADF Legal Counsel Christiana Holcomb. “The district officially authorizes opposite-sex use of school privacy facilities, and that violates Title IX. Letting boys into girls’ showers, restrooms, and locker rooms is sexual harassment. Students should be confident that their school will protect their privacy and dignity. So far, this school district has failed to do so.”
The district opened its schools’ restrooms to the opposite sex—without informing parents—and then opened the girls’ locker room to a boy after the Obama administration’s Department of Education threatened the district’s federal funding. Under the Trump administration, the agency rescinded the Obama administration’s attempt to rewrite federal law and restored the understanding that under Title IX, “sex” means male or female and not one’s beliefs about their gender.
That 1972 federal law prohibits schools from discriminating “on the basis of sex,” which for more than 40 years has meant being male or female. Title IX’s existing regulations specifically state that a school receiving federal funds can “provide separate toilet, locker room, and shower facilities on the basis of sex” without putting that funding at risk.
ADF attorneys represent the privacy association composed of many students and parents in the lawsuit, Students and Parents for Privacy v. Township High School District No. 211, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.
ADF attorneys are also representing students and their parents in another student privacy case in Pennsylvania, Doe v. Boyertown Area School District. In November, ADF petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit ruled that the students’ privacy didn’t merit protection.
As the petition to the Supreme Court in the case explains, “It is untenable that the Third Circuit made students’ right to bodily privacy contingent on what others believe about their own gender.” The brief continues, “Recognizing this reality does not diminish the concern for students who believe they are of the opposite sex. Schools can (and should) teach that every student has inherent dignity and worth and should be treated as such. Schools can (and should) assure students with gender dysphoria that they are valuable and important members of the school community. And school officials can (and should) provide them with resources and support. Despite such alternatives, Boyertown chose to violate the privacy rights of all other students.”