A Chicago-area school district is now involved in two separate lawsuits regarding whether its locker rooms should be reserved for the use of one sex—either boys or girls. It’s hardly a crazy concept, given the fact that it has long been the proper norm that males and females have separate privacy facilities (i.e. restrooms, locker rooms, showers, and overnight accommodations).
Yet, it is a concept that is increasingly challenged by gender identity advocates like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) represents dozens of parents and students in the district, who associated as the Students and Parents for Privacy and filed a federal lawsuit in 2016 after some of them had already confronted members of the opposite sex within their supposedly “private” facilities. That lawsuit challenges, among other things, Township High School District 211’s policy of permitting boys who identify as girls into the girls’ locker room (and vice versa) as long as they change behind a privacy barrier. That policy originated under an agreement that District 211 had reached with the Obama administration regarding a complaint made by the ACLU on behalf of a male student.
And last week, on January 11, attorneys from the Thomas More Society and ADF filed a motion to intervene in another, state-court case that seeks to force the same school district to expand its policies to give members of the opposite sex completely unrestricted access to these once-private locker rooms.
There are sound, sensible reasons to keep privacy facilities separated by biological sex.
It should be no surprise that Illinois has already acknowledged the importance of privacy in its nondiscrimination law. The Illinois Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on sex and sexual orientation, among other characteristics. However, that law specifically prevents the Act from covering “‘any facility…which is distinctly private in nature such as restrooms, shower rooms, bath houses, health clubs and other similar facilities’” and allows those types of facilities to remain separate based on biological sex.
That didn’t stop the ACLU from misapplying the Human Rights Act in an attempt to force District 211 to give a male student (who claims a female gender) uninhibited access to the crowded girls’ locker room, where girls change clothes before and after gym class, including for the required swimming unit.
The school offered the complaining student several individual facilities for changing clothes – a compassionate, commonsense solution that protects the privacy of all of the students involved. Then the school went further, offering access to the girls’ locker room as long as the student changes behind a privacy barrier. But that was not enough—the student’s lawsuit demands completely unrestricted access to the girls’ locker room.
This is ironic. The ACLU claims to be a champion of women’s rights, yet it’s trying to force female high school students, many of whom have already expressed they’re not comfortable with boys in their locker rooms, to change right next to them. Never mind the fact that trying to use the Human Rights Act to force this school district to open locker rooms to members of the opposite sex, when the law specifically exempts those facilities, makes no sense at all.
“Schools must protect the privacy needs of every child,” said ADF Legal Counsel Jeana Hallock. “The ACLU’s attempt to force unrestricted access for boys to girls’ locker rooms by pointing to the Illinois Human Rights Law turns that law on its head. It makes no sense for the ACLU to claim that locker rooms that are exempted from the law are somehow required to be opened to the opposite sex by that same law.”
With the #MeToo movement sweeping our nation, now is the time to be ever more vigilant to protect the privacy rights of women and girls – and forcing them to share their private facilities with males should #NotHappen.
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