PEKIN — Illinois public school transgender students will continue to use the restrooms for the sex they identify with, despite President Donald Trump’s decision to revoke federal protections.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan weighed in on the issue Thursday condemning the actions by the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education in rescinding federal guidance protecting transgender students from discrimination and harassment.
“Schools have an obligation to provide a safe and inclusive environment for all students, including transgender students,” said Madigan in a press release. “Today’s actions by the federal government harm our students by creating unnecessary fear and confusion about the protections provided by Title IX.
“I am committed to the strong enforcement of anti-discrimination statutes that guarantee all Illinois residents the right to be free from discrimination, harassment and violence on the basis of their gender identity. Any actions to deny transgender students equal access to educational opportunities in our state will not be tolerated.”
IAG spokeswoman Eileen Boyce said Friday that the Illinois Human Rights Act already addresses the transgender issue.
“Our point here is the way our law is written in Illinois, students are protected on the basis of gender and gender identity,” said Boyce.
Pekin Community High School built unisex restrooms for transgender students last year to allow them that choice if they wanted it, but the students have the right to use the restrooms and locker rooms of their sexual identity.
PCHS Superintendent Danielle Owens said she does not have a count of the number of transgender students in the district, but many of the transgender students are using the restrooms and locker rooms they identify with and have had no issues with other students.
Owens said the Illinois Human Rights Act protections have not been challenged to this point because any past complaints were filed under Title IX.
“I think Illinois will have to take a stance and the Human Rights Act will get challenged, but in the meantime the schools are caught in the cross hairs,” said Owens.
Owens said she has not received any calls from concerned individuals since the Trump administration’s announcement.
Morton Community Unit District 709 Superintendent Lindsey Hall said things will stay as they are at Morton schools. She said she does not know how many transgender students attend the district or what restrooms or locker rooms they use. The district has an administrative procedure in place that is based on the Illinois Association of School Board’s sample policy and abides by the Illinois Human Rights Act. She said she knows of no problems between students related to the transgender issues.
Hall agrees that the issue will be one fought out in the courts ultimately.
“I think that until there’s a Supreme Court decision that makes it perfectly clear throughout the United States what the law is about this, then there’s just going to be a lot of different decisions, a lot of back and forth and appeals. But, at the end of the day, Illinois does have the Illinois Human Rights Act. Not all states have laws like that. That’s something that guides what we do in schools.”
Norma Jacobs, the grandmother of a non-transgender PCHS student, continues to make statements to the school board at meetings saying her granddaughter’s rights are being violated. She feels the federal guidance on Title IX was twisted for a cause. She said she hopes it will be pursued at the state level.
“Of course, this is a liberal state,” said Jacobs. “But I never thought that Trump would get in or that the mandate would be lifted.
“That was never what Title IX was about, but it’s what they want to twist it and use it for.”
Follow Sharon Woods Harris at Twitter.com/sharrispekin