The federal government has officially inserted itself into the girls' locker room.
The Department of Education has told a Chicago-area school that a transgender child who identifies as a girl must be permitted to use the girls' locker room, including, apparently, the shower.
The letter informing the school of the decision came from the Office for Civil Rights and stated that the school's refusal to allow the student, who now identifies as a woman, to use the girls locker room put it in violation of Title IX, which prohibits gender discrimination in education.
Title IX is a 1972 law and didn't address the matter of students who are born one sex and announce that they are identify as the other sex. The Department of Justice, however, has taken the position that Title IX extends to transgender students.
The U.S. government on Monday found that a Chicago suburban high school district discriminated against a transgender student and gave the school a month to provide full access to girls' locker rooms or lose federal funding.
The student, who has not been named, and the American Civil Liberties Union, which brought a complaint on her behalf, applauded the findings, while the school district called them "serious overreach."
After an investigation stemming from a 2013 complaint by the ACLU, and months of negotiations, the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights found Township High School District 211 was violating federal non-discrimination rules.
The district says transgender students may use their gender-identified locker room if they change and shower privately. The government said a separate changing place was discriminatory because it subjected the student to stigma and different treatment.
The case is seen as clarifying federal rules on locker-room access at a time of expanding awareness of transgender issues.
Yes, clarified federal rules on locker-room access are very important.
It sounds like the school has gone out of its way to accommodate the student:
The school district has provided the student with a separate changing facility outside the locker room and installed privacy curtains on stalls in one locker room out of the three that she uses for physical education, swimming and athletics programs, according to the federal government's findings.
But the student didn't like that, maintaining that it was stigmatizing:
"This decision makes me extremely happy – because of what it means for me, personally, and for countless others," the student said in a statement released by the ACLU. "The district's policy stigmatized me, often making me feel like I was not a 'normal person.'"
The school district stands to lose $6 million in federal funding if it does not comply.