Illinois school district on solid ground to respect children’s privacy

Letter explains that federal law allows schools to maintain separate restrooms, locker rooms for boys, girls
Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Attorney sound bite:  Matt Sharp

PALATINE, Ill. – Alliance Defending Freedom and the Thomas More Society sent a letter Monday to Township High School District 211 in Palatine that affirms its decision to respect the privacy rights of students. The letter provides a suggested policy that addresses any concerns about discrimination without allowing the sharing of restrooms and locker rooms.

The letter explains that no law requires public schools to allow boys into girls’ restrooms or girls into boys’ restrooms. In fact, if it did so, as the letter notes, the district could expose itself to legal liability for violating students’ right to bodily privacy.

“Protecting students from inappropriate exposure to the opposite sex is not only perfectly legal, it’s a school district’s duty,” said ADF Legal Counsel Matt Sharp. “Allowing boys into girls’ locker rooms when dressing is an invasion of privacy and a threat to student safety. The school district should continue to reject any attempts to pressure it into a policy that puts student privacy and safety in jeopardy.”

In August 2014, ADF sent public school districts nationwide a similar letter that it has recently also provided to two specific school districts in Ohio and Missouri. All of the letters cite pertinent legal precedent, including court rulings that support the ability of public schools to limit restrooms to members of the same sex for privacy and safety reasons without violating Title IX, a federal law concerning sex discrimination in public school programs and activities.

“Allowing students to use opposite-sex restrooms and locker rooms would seriously endanger students’ privacy and safety, undermine parental authority, violate religious students’ free exercise rights, and severely impair an environment conducive to learning…,” the letter to Township High School District 211 explains. “ADF’s policy…allows schools to accommodate students with unique privacy needs, including transgender students, while also protecting other students’ privacy and free exercise rights, and parents’ right to educate their children. It also serves to better insulate school districts from legal liability.”

“If a district adopts our model policy and it is challenged in court, Alliance Defending Freedom will review the facts and, if appropriate, offer to defend that district free of charge,” the letter states.

“A school should not force students to share a shower and changing room with students of the opposite sex,” said Thomas More Society Special Counsel Peter Breen. “If a high school student who is biologically male is allowed to use the female showers and changing room, this would jeopardize the privacy of all the young women using their designated locker room. Instead, the privacy rights of all children must be guaranteed and protected, and separate accommodations provided as necessary.”

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.

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