Deal reached on locker room access for Illinois transgender student

By Fiona Ortiz

CHICAGO (Reuters) - A suburban Chicago school district said on Thursday it reached a deal with the U.S. government over locker room access for a transgender student, but the civil rights group representing the student said the agreement fell short of its hopes.

Township High School District 211 in Palatine, Illinois, said it will provide changing areas in the girls' locker room for the student, who has not been named, and for other students, within 30 days.

The seven-member school board held a special meeting on Wednesday evening, heard public comments and then voted 5-2 early on Thursday to approve the deal reached with the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights (OCR).

The OCR last month found the school district discriminated against the student and gave it a month to provide full locker room access. At stake were millions of dollars in annual federal funds for the district of five high schools west of Chicago.

The case stemmed from a complaint filed in 2013 by the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois on behalf of the student, who was born male and identifies as female.

After investigating the complaint, the government said a separate changing place just for the student was discriminatory. The language of the agreement reached on Thursday with the OCR says the school district will provide multiple changing areas with privacy curtains, for the student and any others who want privacy.

"Consistent with our stated position throughout this matter, if the transgender student seeks access to the locker room, the student will not be granted unrestricted access and will utilize a private changing station whenever changing clothes or showering," District 211 Superintendent Daniel Cates said in a statement.

John Knight of the Illinois ACLU said that the district's statement that the student must use the private changing area contradicts the language in the agreement itself.

The agreement says that, based on the student's representation that she will use a private changing station, the school has provided such an area, but does not actually require her to use it.

Knight said the ACLU had hoped the agreement would serve as a model for other districts, but it ended up being very narrow.

"The agreement ... only addresses the needs of our client, not other transgender students. This is a terrible mistake," he said.

(Additional reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)