Transgender teen sues Dakota school district over ban on sports, bathroom access

The lawsuit argues actions from the school board and its members are discriminatory and unconstitutional.
Discrimination over gender identity lawsuit
Discrimination over gender identity lawsuit(WIFR)
Published: Sep. 19, 2022 at 9:49 PM CDT
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DAKOTA, Ill. (WIFR) - The family of a 14-year-old transgender girl filed a lawsuit against the Dakota School District. The lawsuit alleges district leaders enforced a discriminatory and unconstitutional policy that bars the student from using the girl’s bathrooms and locker rooms and competing with the girl’s track team.

23 News first learned about this story in April, after a school board meeting in Dakota challenged the transgender student’s participation in sports. Parents and students expressed they didn’t think it was fair an athlete with male anatomy could compete in girl’s sports. As a result, school board members reversed a policy that allows equal opportunities for students based on their gender identities. The district allegedly enforces a new policy that requires athletes to join teams based on their assigned genders at birth.

23 News obtained a copy of the lawsuit from the Stephenson County Circuit Clerk’s Office. In the preliminary statement, the lawsuit states the Dakota School District willfully chose to ignore laws established at the state and national level, to torment and ostracize the transgender girl.

Illinois lawmakers introduced legislation to restrict transgender girls from playing on girl’s and women’s teams, but it didn’t pass during the 2021 session. In addition, the Illinois High School Association makes the final say in a trans athlete’s participation. It requires schools to follow a list of procedures concerning transgender participation, including proof of medical documentation, like hormone treatments and gender reassignment surgery. The IHSA will review those documents with medical experts, before it makes a final decision about whether a transgender athlete can compete. Then, it will notify the school with its decision.

In the state of Illinois, the Illinois Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination in education, employment and other places of public accommodation on the basis of several characteristics, including gender identity. At the national level, Title IX, which applies to schools, protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance from the U.S. Department of Education.

In August 2021, an Illinois appellate court affirmed expansive protections of the Illinois Human Rights Act for transgender individuals, finding that transgender individuals in Illinois have the right to access restrooms corresponding to their gender identity. That case involved a transgender woman who filed a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights against her employer at the time, Hobby Lobby.

23 News reached out to the Dakota School District for comment, but it declined. The attorney for the family who filed the lawsuit also chose not to comment on pending litigation.