Cook County Circuit Judge Thomas R. Allen Denies Access to Common Area for Transgender Teen

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Transgender student Nova Maday will not be permitted to change in the common area of the girls’ locker room at Palatine High School. Instead she will continue to have accessibility to the use of a private stall in the locker room at Palatine High School, while or if her case continues to move through the court system.

In court, Cook County Circuit Judge Thomas R. Allen called the case a “balancing act of all balancing acts.” While Maday alleged discrimination, Township High School District 211 attorneys said that, under the law, the school is providing Maday access to the school facility, including the girls’ locker room.

Maday, an 18-year-old senior at Palatine High School, filed the lawsuit last year, arguing that she is being discriminated against under the Illinois Human Rights Act when she is not allowed full access to the girls locker room. The ACLU of Illinois is representing her in court.

“We are extremely disappointed in the judge’s ruling for Nova, and for her dignity. Not to be fully recognized for the girl that she is,” said Ed Yohnka, a spokesman for the ACLU of Illinois. “We’re now being told there is a place where discrimination is permitted, and that is in our public schools. I think that’s something, that frankly, ought to alarm people.”

— Ed Yohnka, ACLU Spokesman

Yohnka has criticized the district for claiming to have made every possible accommodation for transgender students while stopping short of unrestricted access to the locker rooms.

Nova Maday is “disappointed with the decision” the judge made Thursday, that considered whether she could change in the common area of the girls’ locker room or use a private stall. The judge denied a preliminary injunction, meaning Maday must continue to use the private stall in the locker room at Palatine High School while her case moves through the court system.

“To me, this is a simple question – am I going to be treated just like any other girl in my school? All I want is to be accepted by my school for who I am – a girl – and be able to take gym and use the locker room to change clothes like the other girls in my class.”

— Nova Maday

“They have allowed access – access, access, access,” said Judge Allen, referring to the district’s current position. The law “doesn’t say full and fair access.”

Allen added that he must analyze the case “within the four corners of the statute” and that means the law, the “words put on paper by the legislature.”

After court, District 211’s superintendent read a statement saying, in part, that the district has an “unwavering commitment to respecting all students while also safeguarding student privacy.”

“We are committed to providing supportive access to our school locker rooms, access that respects and balances the identity and privacy interests of all of the nearly 12,000 teenagers in our high schools,” said Superintendent Daniel Cates. ” Judge Allen’s decision today upholds this important balance.”

District 211 has support as well, including the Chicago-based Thomas More Society, which is representing a group of parents who would rather have transgender students use a third, separate locker room. “I’m relieved and hopeful in the future that privacy will be protected for all students,” said Beth Kalopisis, a parent and member of D211 Parents and Students for Privacy.

Legally, the case is not finished yet. Yohnka, Director of Communications and Public Policy for the ACLU Illinois, said lawyers will talk to Nova Maday and her family about all their options. The next court hearing is scheduled for February 8th, 2018.

“We will consider our next steps,” Yohnka said. “We believe, as we move through this process and develop additional evidence, that we will prevail.”

In a Daily Herald interview in December 2017, Maday said that although she says she was born male, said she’s known she was female as long as she can remember. She came out and transitioned to presenting herself as female just after starting high school. Maday says that being barred from unrestricted use of the locker room is the only truly negative experience she’s had from being open about being transgender.

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