Chicago area school district rescinds protections for transgender students

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The East Aurora School District in suburban Chicago has rescinded a policy put in place just days earlier to protect transgender students.

The Chicago Tribune reported that following a special meeting of the district school board, proponents of the protections policy called out “shame” and “coward.” About 100 people attended that meeting on Oct. 19.

Days earlier, the same board voted unanimously for the policy, which, among other things, would have allowed transgender students to use rest rooms and locker rooms for their identified gender and to go by their gender-identified name.

The special meeting took place following complaints from several Christian right organizations and some parents. The most vocal opposition came from the Illinois Family Institute, an anti-LGBT group associated with the far-right American Family Association.

Both groups have circulated lies and misinformation about LGBT people. IFI spokesperson Laurie Higgins has called being gay an "evil" and likened same-sex relations to incest. AFA spokesman Bryan Fischer has said that gays are responsible for Adolf Hitler and the Holocaust, according to GLAAD.

Efforts are now under way to reinstate the policy.

 “The board’s decision to rescind the policy threatens the safety of our transgender students and students who may not conform to gender norms,” said Anthony Martinez of The Civil Rights Agenda. “We will now take the necessary steps toward overturning this decision. Health, safety and wellness are human rights entitled to all individuals regardless of gender expression or identity and must be upheld in order to promote and provide a safe space for transgender and gender non-conforming students in the East Aurora Public Schools.”

Rick Garcia, an advisor to The Civil Rights Agenda and longtime LGBT rights advocate in the state, said, “As a public accommodation, this school district is prohibited from denying or refusing a transgender individual the full and equal enjoyment of the facilities, goods and services provided to all students.”

Garcia noted the climate of harassment that LGBT students face in school, which is documented in reports from the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network.

GLSEN says:

• 56.9 percent of students reported hearing negative remarks about gender expression from teachers or other school staff.

• 43.9 percent of students felt unsafe in schools because of their gender expression.

• Students who were more frequently harassed because of their sexual orientation or gender expression had lower grade point averages than students who were less often harassed.