Williamsville, Ill. (AP) – A transgender student at Williamsville High School in central Illinois who was born female but identifies as male will be able to use the men’s bathroom.
With the help of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois and its lawyers from Chicago, Alex McCray, 18, recently resolved a complaint that he filed in October with the Illinois Department of Human Rights.
Under the agreement, he and other transgender students will have equal access to gender-appropriate restrooms and locker rooms at the school. The agreement also requires the Williamsville School District to adopt a comprehensive policy that creates a model for addressing transgender students’ needs.
McCray previously was required to use a single-occupant restroom rather than the restrooms used by the other boys in his class, according to a press release from the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois.
He initially went along with the district’s plan, but he later decided he wanted to use the boys bathroom at school because that’s what he uses in public. He eventually refused to use the designated bathroom because he said he felt stigmatized and decided to file the complaint to force a change.
“It was so weird that I had to switch over at school,” McCray said. “Other students knew who that bathroom was for.”
The district thought that solution of offering a unisex bathroom would make everyone feel safe and comfortable, and it didn’t intend to make any student feel discriminated against, School Superintendent David Root told The (Springfield) State Journal-Register.
“We never were interested in fighting this,” he said. “We just said, `Tell us what we need to do to help the student.”’
Both the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois and Root, on behalf of the Williamsville School District, said Tuesday that the agreement was reached amicably.
“(Williamsville) school district’s quick and respectful response should be a model for other districts in Illinois and elsewhere,” John Knight, LGBT project director for the ACLU of Illinois, said in a statement.
In recent months, bathroom access for transgender students has become a hot-button issue across the U.S., with several state legislatures debating proposals that would force individuals to use the bathroom that corresponds with the gender listed on their birth certificate.
Critics argued that such bills allow discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
McCray said he’s glad the issue was resolved within the Williamsville School District and he hopes other students won’t have to go through any of the pain he endured.
“I’m very happy with the policy that came out because of this,” he said. “I think it’s a big change the school had to go through, and I think they handled it well.”