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Chicago school district found violating transgender rights could lose funding

The Chicago-area district has 30 days to provide a transgender teen full access to the girls' locker room, or it could face cuts to its federal funding.
A school's sports locker room. (Photo by Jaak Nilson/Corbis)
A school's sports locker room.

A high school district in Chicago has a month to provide a transgender student who identifies as female full access to the girls' locker room, or it could face cuts to its federal funding.

The U.S. Department of Education on Monday found the Township High School District 211 in violation of Title IX, which protects against sex discrimination. The school district restricted a transgender student’s access to the girls’ locker room by requiring her to change and shower privately.

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The student, who is recognized as a female on school records and participates on a girls’ sports team, said the school’s policy made her feel like an outcast.

“The district’s policy stigmatized me, often making me feel like I was not a ‘normal person,’” she said in a statement released by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The ACLU filed a complaint about the policy in 2013, which led to the investigation and the landmark decision on Monday.

According to the ACLU, a petition supporting the student’s access to the locker room was signed by hundreds of students and community members.

Earlier in October, the district released a statement that said it would not provide full access to locker rooms for transgender students and would continue the private accommodations.

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“The goal of the District in this matter is to protect the privacy rights of all students when changing clothes or showering before or after physical education and after-school activities, while also providing accommodations necessary to meet the unique needs of individual students,” the statement reads.

If the school district does not comply now, however, it will risk its federal funding. According to Reuters, $6 million of the school’s funding last year was contingent on compliance with Title IX.

The Department of Education's decision comes as other fights for LGBT rights are taking hold elsewhere, including in Houston, Texas, where voters on Tuesday will decide whether or not to ban sex discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations.