Federal Magistrate Judge Sides With Transgender Teen in Ill. Bathroom Case

The magistrate judge recommended that “Student A” be allowed to use the restroom and locker-room facilities of her gender identity.

A gender-neutral sign is posted outside a bathroom at Oval Park Grill in Durham, N.C., on May 11, 2016.
A gender-neutral sign is posted outside a bathroom at Oval Park Grill in Durham, N.C., on May 11, 2016. Sara D. Davis/Getty Images

A federal magistrate judge has recommended that a transgender teen be allowed to use the girls’ locker room at her high school.

The Washington Post reports that “Student A,” a transgender girl at Fremd High School in Illinois’ Palatine Township, is at the center of a lawsuit brought on by four female students, one male student and their parents, who allege that their Title IX rights have been violated by an Obama-administration policy that directs educational institutions receiving federal funding to allow transgender students to use the facilities that match their gender identity.

The plaintiffs have named the Education Department, the Justice Department and the school district as defendants in their suit and have sought a preliminary injunction that forces “Student A” to use the boys’ locker room or a private bathroom while the court moves forward with the case.

In an 82-page report, Magistrate Judge Jeffrey T. Gilbert sided against the plaintiffs  and wrote that a preliminary injunction was an “extraordinary remedy” and said the plaintiffs did not show that they were likely to win the case on merits.

Gilbert wrote that high school students do not have a constitutional right not to share restrooms or locker rooms with transgender students “whose sex assigned at birth is different from theirs.”

“A transgender person’s gender identity is an important factor to be considered in determining whether his or her needs, as well as those of cisgender people, can be accommodated in the course of allocating or regulating the use of restrooms and locker rooms,” he continued. “So, to frame the constitutional question in the sense of sex assigned at birth while ignoring gender identity frames it too narrowly.”

The plaintiffs argued that the policy violated their parental and privacy rights. According to Gilbert’s report, the transgender student had agreed to use a private changing stall in the girls’ locker room, and the school had offered private changing areas separate from the locker room for students who were uncomfortable dressing near her. Gilbert said that the students were free to use those alternatives.

“Put simply,” Gilbert wrote, “this case does not involve any forced or involuntary exposure of a student’s body to or by a transgender person assigned a different sex at birth.”

Gilbert also said that he was not swayed by the plaintiffs’ claims that they were harmed by sharing a locker room with a transgender student. Transgender students at the school have been allowed to use restrooms consistent with their gender identity since 2013.

“If Student Plaintiffs did not know they were using restrooms with transgender students during this three-year period, it is hard to say this is a conscience shocking policy,” Gilbert wrote. “Alternatively, if some Student Plaintiffs were aware transgender students were using restrooms consistent with their gender identity during that time and did not complain about it, then it also is hard to say that state of affairs shocks the conscience.”

The report will now go to U.S. District Judge Jorge Alonso, who will decide whether to grant the plaintiffs’ request to ban “Student A” from the girls’ locker room while the case proceeds.

Read more at the Washington Post.

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