There were two questions looming in the background that needed answers. The first one was how long before the insanity and illegality of Title IX as reflected by the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights “dear colleague” letters to colleges would filter down to younger students. The second was whether they would breach the gender divide.
Federal education authorities, staking out their firmest position yet on an increasingly contentious issue, found Monday that an Illinois school district violated anti-discrimination laws when it did not allow a transgender student who identifies as a girl and participates on a girls’ sports team to change and shower in the girls’ locker room without restrictions.
It may well be argued that the Township High School District 211 in Palantine, Illinois, should have done something more to accommodate the needs of its transgender student, although it begs the question of what that might be, and at what cost to the public.
Should it have built a third locker room facility for one student? Should it allow the student to use the locker room after the other students were done and gone? But wouldn’t that too distinguish the student, depriving the student of the right to be just like any other? And wouldn’t that eat up educational time, depriving the student of the right to his education. So many questions and problems involved in changing the gender divide.
But the OCR doesn’t care. That’s not its problem.
In a letter sent Monday, the Office for Civil Rights of the Department of Education told the Palatine district that requiring a transgender student to use private changing and showering facilities was a violation of that student’s rights under Title IX, a federal law that bans sex discrimination. The student, who identifies as female but was born male, should be given unfettered access to girls’ facilities, the letter said.
“All students deserve the opportunity to participate equally in school programs and activities — this is a basic civil right,” Catherine Lhamon, the Education Department’s assistant secretary for civil rights, said in a statement. “Unfortunately, Township High School District 211 is not following the law because the district continues to deny a female student the right to use the girls’ locker room.”
Catherine Lhamon suffers no constraints gladly. Not law. Not policy. She has an agenda and, left to her own devices, will recreate the schools of this nation to fit her image. Let’s be real about it; it’s not like anyone has seriously challenged her ability to do so yet.
Nor is Lhamon’s agenda up for a vote of public approval or discussion. The school tried pretty hard to accommodate the needs of its transgender student. It was not just mean and intransigent.
Officials in the Palatine district, which serves more than 12,000 students, have framed their position as a middle ground. The transgender student in question plays on a girls’ sports team, is called “she” by school staff and is referred to by a female name. But the district, citing privacy concerns, had required her to change clothes and shower separately.
The district said she was allowed to change inside the girls’ locker room, but only behind a curtain. The student, who has not been publicly identified, has said she would probably use that curtain to change. But she and the federal government have insisted that she be allowed to make that decision voluntarily, and not because of requirements by the district.
Bear in mind that this student identifies as female, but has the standard equipment of a young man. That means that the girls who use the girl’s locker room, the ones who aren’t transgender, who are okay with their gender identity, will be compelled to share their space with a student with male genitalia.
Whether or not you think this is a big deal isn’t the point. You’re entitled to your personal agenda, as is Catherine Lhamon. But she’s imposing hers on others, with no authority to do so. What of the agenda of the girls in the locker room? What of the agenda of the parents of the girls? What about the educational environment to which they’re entitled?
Dr. Cates, the superintendent, said parents had made it resoundingly clear that they favored “maintaining some measure of privacy expectation” in the locker rooms. He said the district would continue settlement negotiations with Education Department officials, but added, “We do stand on the position that we have not violated any laws.”
The girls who identify as girls have a right to privacy as well. But as each increasingly marginalized faction steps forward, their rights become predominant over all others. Girls may complain of the patriarchy, but that’s no longer on the front burner. Now, Catherine Lhamon has a new individual to protect, and the protection comes at the girls’ expense.
The Department of Education’s findings, unlike the agreements it reached in earlier circumstances, send a message to other districts wrestling with similar questions, she said. “This is telling them that they have to respect all students’ gender identities,” [Lamda Legal’s Demoya] Gordon said.
Except where is the respect for the gender identity of the girls who have no gender identity issues? Poof, gone. In the clash of rights, this isn’t even the tail wagging the dog, but a single hair on the tail doing the wagging.
But the core question is by what authority does the OCR impose its vision?
One sex. The other sex. That’s in the law. Then “all students, including transgender students, are protected from sex-based discrimination under Title IX.” That’s nowhere to be found in the law, except that OCR says so.
It’s wonderful that such concern for the welfare of a young transgender student exists, and that efforts are made to accommodate her needs. But when the federal government becomes a Super School Board, ramming its progressive vision of discrimination down actual school board’s throats in a way the law does not require, and at the expense of the other students, it’s no longer quite so wonderful.
But it’s here. The DoE OCR says so. And nobody in Washington seems to care enough to tell Catherine Lhamon that she doesn’t get to make decisions for all the children. And this is high school, having quickly slid down the slope from college. There is no conceptual ledge that will stop the slide to elementary school. And younger.