© 2023 NPR Illinois
The Capital's NPR News Service
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Human Rights Commission Rules In Favor Of Transgender Student

ACLU of Illinois

The Illinois Human Rights Commission, in the first case of its kind in the state, ordered a Chicago area school district to give a transgender student access to a communal boys’ restroom.

In 2015, the Komarek School in suburban North Riverside refused to let a now-12-year-old use the communal boys’ restroom, forcing him to use the male staff members’ bathroom.

The Human Rights commission ruled that was discrimination based on gender-related identity.

Ed Yohnka of the ACLU, which represented the parents on the boy’s behalf, says the decision sets a precedent for other districts on how to treat transgender students.

“For any recalcitrant districts, which continue to say that they're not sure what the law means, this makes it perfectly clear that the Illinois Human Rights Act means that students who are transgender get access to both restrooms and locker rooms, full and equal access, full stop,’’ he said.

The superintendent of the Komarek school district declined to comment.

But the parents commented through the ACLU about the commission's decision.

“We believe that every school district should adopt inclusive and affirming policies – not simply because it is the law, but because is the right thing to do,’’ they wrote. “We took on the school in this case both to ensure that our son would be treated fairly and to prevent any other students from suffering the kind of harm our son experienced.”

The commission ordered the district to pay $155,000 as compensation for emotional distress and to cover attorneys’ fees.

In a second case in July, the commission found that Lake Park Community District 108 in Roselle had violated the rights of a transgender student when they denied him full and equal use of Lake Park High School’s locker room.

Meanwhile in June, Gov. J.B. Pritzker formed the Affirming and Inclusive Schools Task Force to develop strategies to ensure "welcoming, safe, supportive and inclusive school environments" for transgender, non-binary and gender-nonconforming students.

Maureen Foertsch McKinney is lead editor of Illinois Issues' feature articles, working with freelance writers, and covering the equity beat. Maureen joined the Illinois Issues in 1998 as projects editor. Previously, she worked at three Illinois daily newspapers, most recently the suburban Chicago-based Daily Herald, where she served stints as an education reporter and copy editor. She graduated in 1985 with a bachelor's in journalism. She also has a master's degree in English from the University of Illinois at Springfield.
Related Stories