Evanston Township High School District 202 Superintendent Eric Witherspoon dramatically stated to a crowded room of students and citizens Monday night that “this board just made history” in adopting a policy of acceptance of student transgender rights.

The ETHS board adopted a revision of a policy that now states that “students shall be treated and supported in a manner consistent with their gender identity. This shall include but not be limited to students having access to gendered facilities, including restrooms and locker rooms that correspond to their gender identity.”

Before the final vote, the board eliminated a procedural requirement that the superintendent must convene an advisory committee to help him implement the policy. That amendment was offered by former board president Mark Metz on the grounds that there was no need to mandate the establishment of such a committee, although he acknowledged that it left the superintendent free to form one if he felt it desirable or necessary.

The only vote against the final version of the policy was from Doug Holt, who did not run for re-election as his term came to an end Monday night.  While he said he favors transgender rights, “it’s an ambiguous and unresolved area in terms of law” and that “it may be prudent to let this issue play itself out.”

But an ebullient superintendent declared that the board “just passed a policy unlike any policy at a school district in the state.”

Witherspoon added that “you’ve taken a huge step forward and I think it says a lot about what ETHS is trying to do and to signal.”

The transgender policy vote was the final significant policy vote of the Board before the new members who were elected last month assumed office. So after a brief intermission, the new Board opened its meeting and swore in two new members, Jude Laude and Patricia Maunsell.

The new board then re-elected Patricia Savage-Williams as its president and Monique Parsons as its vice president. In addition to Savage-Williams, Parsons, Laude, and Maunsell, the new board also includes Gretchen Livingston, Jonathan Baum, and  Metz, 

Earlier story:

ETHS policy deals with student gender identity

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio...

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  1. Who cares?
    What if D202 made history by having 100% of their graduating class accepted at Ivy Leagues? Or maybe finally closing that black/white achievement gap? Imagine how many people would be directly and immediately affected?

    Instead, they claim success by instituting transgender policies… What exactly does that have to do with their purpose of education for the 99.99% of the student population that is not transgender? Some measly social studies context? Instead of “real stuff” where the dreaded achievement gap resides?

    1. Focus on the small things first

      The disparities that you are mentioning are not solveable through simple action from the board. This policy change, however, helps students that need to be accepted by their own school. While the achievement gap has been studied relentlessly, it will not go away overnight as you suggest.

      1. Who cares?

        I agree with “R”

        I care! There are so many issues, that solving one is progress. Being accepted and part of a high school community may help close the gap you mention. After all, transgender students could be of any race and ethnic group…

        Also, let’s keep in mind the gap start since early childhood, and schools cannot close the gap by themselves. We all need to work on it after school, which is the majority of the time in a child’s life.

        1. Encouraging children

          Encouraging children struggling with a mental issue like gender dysphoria does absolutely nothing to help them.  It simply makes you feel better for virtue signalling.

          1. Policies based on feelings

            Agreed, establishing policies based on feelings rather than empirical data is troubling, especially for an institution of higher learning.

      2. How many?
        How many transgender students is D202 taking about? Had their number been going up or down historically? What is the split between those who l are “medically confirmed” (if there’s such a thing) vs. merely self-identify? How did they take care of their bathroom needs up to now?

        1. Bathroom Needs

          Transgender people go to the rest room just like you and I. They either used a  stall or urinal. Ytransgender people have been around a long time (ever heard of Renee Richards)

    2. We care

      We care because you don’t. Why are any children left behind in your “real stuff” opinion. All of your points are valid but only if you included everyone. That is what this issue is about. Equality.

      1. There was equality under the previous policy

        There was equality under the previous policy. All students accessed facilities based on biological sex, and only those facilities. ETHS had provided a gender-neutral locker room for any student to access if they were uncomfrotable in the sex-segregated locker rooms for any reason. I’m not seeing how defining access by gender identity (subjective and along a continuum, advocates say) more equitable than defining access by sex (objective and dichotomous)? 

        1. Not full equality

          Before the policy change, students were not allowed into the locker room of their gender if they were transgender–now they are.

          1. According to the school’s

            According to the school’s administrative procedures for Policy 7:10 (prior to revision): 

            • Sex assigned at birth refers to the sex designation, usually “male” or “female,” assigned to a person when they are born. This is what is written on the birth certificate.
            • Gender identity is a person’s deeply held sense or psychological knowledge of their own gender, which can include being female, male, another gender, or no gender. A person’s gender identity can be the same or different than their sex assigned at birth. The responsibility for determining an individual’s gender identity rests with the individual. Unlike gender expression, gender identity is not visible to others.

            • Gender expression refers to the manner in which a person represents or expresses gender to others, often through behavior, clothing, hairstyles, activities, voice, or mannerisms. 

            • Transgender describes a person whose gender identity or expression is different from that traditionally associated with their sex assigned at birth.

            • Cisgender describes a person whose gender identity aligns with the sex they were assigned at birth. 

            Policy 7:10 (then and now) lists sex and gender identity, but not gender. So…what is gender under this new policy? Yes, the school has parents say “Male” or “Female” for Gender on the school registration form. I don’t think it’s a strectch to say most parents are thinking sex assigned at birth, but it’s not clear (even according the the above definitions), how the school defines gender. Male and female are used under “sex assigned at birth” and “gender identity.” 

            These definitions raise more than a few questions in general, but the most pressing in light of the new policy is “What is gender?” According to the above explanations, sex can’t be inferred from gender identity or vice versa.

            Thoughts or insights from anyone welcome!

    3. Civil rights, empathy, and
      Civil rights, empathy, and justice are part of the education of all of these students. Those things are not measly. They are more valuable than any single subject could ever be. We live in a society. As MLK said, “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

  2. Who Cares
    This is what we do well in “the land of the free.” We lead the Free World in recognizing the equality of all people, regardless of our differences. We do it imperfectly but we DO it. Transgender and gender-fluid students at ETHS can now focus on their education. They care, their families care, their friends care, their peers care, everyone else in their village cares, anyone who cares about freedom and equality ought to care.

    1. A student’s sex should not be inferred

      There was equality under the previous policy, no? All students were granted or denied access to locker rooms based on their biological sex. The new policy applies a different criterion to all students (not just to transgender students)–that of gender identity. This raises questions about the privacy rights of other students and their families, particularly those whose religious beliefs or cultural  values inform their convictions. It also raises questions about a public school (i.e., the government) asking students to declare a gender identity. It seems the District is going to infer gender identity from a student’s sex, unless the student declares otherwise. Based on the District’s own definition of gender identity, sex cannot and should not be so-inferred.  

      1. Not true…

        The school goes based off of the gender declared by the students. There is no “guessing” of gender as you seem to understand it. Furthermore, if students really feel troubled by it, they probably shouldn’t be in a public school. Public schools are not meant to shelter people from real life because of their religion or culture.

        1. Religion and culture aside,

          Religion and culture aside, it’s an interesting statement to make that if students (or their parents) feel troubled by the idea of exposing themselves to (and being exposed to) the anatomy of the opposite sex in a locker room, they shouldn’t be in a public school. Agreed that a public school can’t and shouldn’t accommodate every belief, but schools do convey and teacher values & virtues through their policies (as well as their curriculum, programs, etc.). It seems like D202 is virtue-signaling here and should maybe be clearer about their “why,” beyond the vague reason “Because of equity and because these students want it.” Til now, the school did not ask students to change in a facility with someone from the opposite biological sex. 

          In “real life,” we have the reasonable expectation of privacy in sex-segregated locker rooms. 

    2. Why Don’t You Care About Girls and Gay Kids?

      Everyone, whether they are born male, female, or intersex…whether they act or appear masculine, feminine or androgynous…EVERYONE deserves to live their lives with human rights and dignity.  Everyone should have the same rights and responsibilities of citizenship…the same access and opportunities in education, employment, housing and health care.  BUT…

      Gender is cultural.  Transgenderism is cultural.  These are issues of identity.  We, as a society, are creating the concept of Transgenderism and using it on everyone that doesn’t fit our standards for approriate “gendered” behavior.  These are children.  We are supposed to have their best interests at heart.  How are we letting this happen?  Even worse, why are we encouraging it and patting ourselves on the back for it?  Do you really not have any concerns for the gay and lesbian kids and tomboy girls that are being caught in this web?  

      Imagine there was a couple who believed that homosexuality was an abomination.  Imagine those people have a child…a boy.  And that boy starts exhibiting the “wrong” kind of behavior and wants to play with girls toys.  Imagine that the parents’ friends and family start to ask if the child is gay.  What are those parents to do?  Luckily, they live in Evanston, a progressive and welcoming community with a school system that denies biological reality…so they can just raise that little boy like the girl they know he wants to be…and everyone is happy.  Except the child whose life has been destroyed.

      Human Beings are a sexually dimorphic species.  There are real and specific and identifiable biological differences between men and women…boys and girls.  To go down this road…to say that biological sex does not dictate whether one is male or female…that it is instead the unproven and unprovable sense of Gender Identity…that it can be chosen…that you can be changed…is absolutely dangerous to gays, lesbians, women and children.

      1. Dear A Gay Man

        I am saddened to see your uneducated and bigoted response. It is words like yours that perpetuate hate towards transgender individuals. There are great resources available to learn more about transgender people, including families who have openly shared their stories and experiences. I can assure you that no parent would “cry transgender” to avoid a LGB label. I’ve yet to meet a homophobic person who is ok with transgender people….not to say that they don’t exist. Unfortunately I am familiar with a few gay and lesbian people who are transphobic…. Take time to meet some families and learn more. You may be surprised that some of your assumptions are not facts. 

        1. Educate Yourself

          Uneducated?  Bigoted?  Transphobic?  You can spare me your judgments and condescension.  

          You cannot assure me that no parent would “cry transgender” to avoid a gay or lesbian child…because that is already happening.  You seem to believe that young children can comprehend issues of sex and sexuality and have the ability to consent to being declared the opposite sex.  I do not.  

          You probably read an article like that and see the tale of a loving mother embracing her child’s Transgenderism.  I read that article and see an admittedly anti-Gay Christian women who was concerned her child was gay when he acted differently than her three other boys.  So, when someone mentioned that her child may be Trans and not gay, she jumped right on that.  And found a welcoming group of people, probably like you, to support and encourage her in her delusion.

          So, which is more likely?  That her 4-year-old son is a girl born in a boy’s body?  Or that he’s just gay? We know that the more older brothers a boy has, the greater likelihood he will be gay.  So here we have a 4th son who wants to be a princess who lives in an anti-gay household.  Do you really still think he’s Trans?  Are you sure?  How can you be sure?

          You say you haven’t yet met a homophobic person who is OK with Transgenderism?  Go to Iran.  There you will find a country that executes Homosexuals and yet performs more sex change operations than any country besides Thailand.  Why do you think that is?  

          Trans rights can happily co-exist in a society that subjugates women and criminalizes Homosexuality.  Transgenderism is a social construct that is based on those very oppressive and limiting rules of behavior for men and women.  Transgenderism is rooted in the belief that it is not biology that defines whether we are male or female…instead, it is behavior.  Gay men are forcibly Transed in Iran because they commit the unforgivable sin of “acting like a girl.”  But, hey…it’s better than being executed, right?

  3. Catering to the far left

    The political left should be dominating these days. Instead, they are being destroyed at every level of government because of policies like this catering to the far left. Children (and adults) struggling with mental issues like gender dysphoria need treatment, not affirmation that their delusions are true. You’ve got Trump sitting in office, and probably on his way to re-election.

  4. I care!
    While the number of children directly affected by this policy may be small, all students benefit by attending a school that values equity and inclusion. I am grateful for this decision by the board and hope it will be a model for other districts in the state.

    1. How is this equity?

      I’m not sure the number of children (and parents) we’re talking about is small when the policy involves restrooms and locker rooms that 3,000 students access. I very much value equity and inclusion in schools, and have dedicated my professional work to it. But this is bad policy that challenges that rights privacy rights of all children (including transgender students). Liz, my mind and ears are open to a clear and logical explanation of how redefining facilities access through the lens of gender identity (versus sex) is equitable and inclusive. Thanks!

      1. Equity

        An inclusive and equitable educational environment treats everyone according to their gender identity. People are called by their preferred names, using their preferred pronouns, use bathrooms that match their gender identity, use locker rooms that match their gender identity. I teach at a high school in the Chicago suburbs (not ETHS) where this is the norm and it is absolutely NO BIG DEAL. I’m actually shocked to see comments here that perpetuate the idea that a trans boy using the boys room is a big deal. 

        1. The conversation that needs to take place

          Hi Liz. I really appreciate you making your position and assumption clear so that I can better understand & engage your point of view. (Truly, no sarcasm or snark here.) 🙂

          It seems that the conversation that needs to take place is whether gender identity is construct that should apply to locker rooms in a public school setting, why and how it’s more helpful as a criterion for locker room segregation than biological sex, and if gender identity is something that can or should be asked about students (e.g., on a registratrion form), or inferred from their declared sex. Would you agree that those are critical questions to address in a more public fashion?

          I would love to hear your thinking on why students’ different gender identities compel making them change in different locker rooms. 

          I would also love to hear your perspective on why (for example) the parents of a biological female is justified in not wanting their daughter in a locker room changing alongside a biological male but should be fine with it (and tell their daughter to be fine with it) if the biological male identifies as a female.


        2. Locker rooms

          P.S. It’s the opposite-sex locker room that’s at-issue here. Courts around the country have not settled this matter, and for good reason. So, while you might be surprised, there are many parents who would disagree with the idea that anatomy makes no difference in a space where the school (i.e., the government) is requiring minors to change their clothing during the school day. 

          1. Locker rooms

            A couple things to keep in mind. One is that trans boys look like boys. Trans girls look like girls. Most people looking at that kid wouldn’t know they were trans, unless the observer happened to have known them before they transitioned. So seeing that trans boy walk into a boy’s bathroom feels completely natural to me; it would be much more strange if a trans boy walked into a girl’s bathroom.

            The other thing to keep in mind is that locker rooms today are very different from the locker rooms I grew up with. When I was in middle school, we had to take nude showers in a big group shower.. Today that is almost unheard of. Kids very rarely see each other naked in locker rooms. So I think the notion that kids will be exposed to each other’s “anatomy” in high school locker rooms doesn’t match up with the reality of today’s schools. (If you don’t have a high school student of your own, ask around. Ask how many kids take showers after PE. Ask whether anyone is ever naked in the locker room. My son is an athlete and even he doesn’t shower at school–he waits till he gets home.)

            I hear your sincere concern for parents who want to protect their children’s privacy in a locker room. But I don’t think there’s much privacy for anyone in a locker room, unless it is equipped with individual stalls. I don’t see how a girl changing for gym in front of a trans girl is substantially different from changing in front of cis-gendered girls. Again, it would be much more disruptive for a trans girl to have to use a boy’s locker room.

            The school where I work invested in more stalls over the summer and, again, it’s just no big deal. Everyone uses the bathroom and locker room where they feel comfortable. It’s no big deal.

          2. Hi Liz. Kids don’t have to be

            Hi Liz. Kids don’t have to be “naked” to be exposed to or “see” one another’s anatomy in a way that would otherwise be considered inappropriate. To this point, parents have had the reasonable expectation that the school won’t alllow their minor children to be seen in various states of undress in a locker room setting by members of the opposite sex, nor allow their minor children to view members of the opposite sex in various states of undress. (We might disagree about whether that’s the “right” thing–or whether boys being around as girls undress–even “modestly” & vice versa is okay–but we can agree that parents have had that expectations.) The new policy says that parents can no longer have that expectation, and that students who identify as the opposite sex should be an exception.         

            You said that you’re not sure how a girl changing for gym in front of a trans girl is substantionally different from them changed in front of cis-gendered girls. Do you think a girl changing in front of a cis-gendered boy is a problem? If so, why? To me, at the most basic level, the reasons are related to anatomy. (Side note: Whether cisgendered girls changing in front of cis-gendered girls is a problem is a separate discussion and not relevant to the change in policy. Girls changing in front of girls is what parents have heretofore expected….for decades and decades.)

            Is your school public? If so, are students actually (as you say) “using the locker room where they feel most comfortable”? Is that what your policy says or allows? Remember that the D202 says that students access locker rooms based on gender identity–itself a questionable criterion for locker room selection, but a different one than comfort level. There’s not really a “choice” being given under the revised policy. According to our communications with Board members, students are required to access the locker room that corresponds to their gender identity.

            My children are younger than HS. My work puts me in a range of high schools here and elsewhere very month, but I don’t go into the locker rooms, so I can’t speak to how modest students tend to be. In general, with all the talk of sexuality in school proper–and with the advent social media, smartphones, etc.–students are being introduced to and asked to think about issues around sexuality earlier and earlier. There’s also a big focus in general in our culture on identity, self, the individual, etc. We might disagree about whether those are all good and helpful things. I taught middle school, and suffice to say that adolescence in general complex & precarious time for development of all kinds. I don’t think we’d disagree there.

            I also wonder about the rights of an adult (teacher) to not be exposed to a student of the opposite sex in various states of undress as they supervise or walk through a locker room. It seems that the new policy more or less requires teachers to “be okay with” that possibility.

            Such an interesting discussion, isn’t this? And I very much appreciate that we don’t have to call each other names or make blanket assumptions about one another to engage. 🙂

  5. It’s historic in the potential for legal costs

    So a student with male parts who thinks he’s a girl can use the high school women’s locker room and shower. And what is the litmus test to show this transgender who declares his identity a woman is not really an imposter? Who decides and by what measurement? 

    I bet there are female students at ETHS who will be uncomfortable sharing locker rooms, bathrooms and sports teams with someone with male body parts, What about their privacy rights? This so called historic moment at ETHS has created an “intimidating and hostile environment” for other students in the locker rooms.

    This historic myopic policy also allows students to enroll in the P.E. class or team sport that corresponds with their gender identity. What a confused mess that will create.

    And what if a high school student fails to address a transgender sudent corresponding to their gender identity? Will they be discplined? Because if my children are disciplined at the high school because they fail for whatever reason to address the “correct” gender identityand/or if they go through the proper channels to complain of privacy rights due to the transgender policy and nothing is done to correct it WE WILL FILE A LAWSUIT faster than you can say privacy rights.

    There are lawsuits fighting against high school transgender policies wending through the court system and likely will end up in the Supreme Court. 51 parents in District 211 filed a lawsuit that is pending.

    Don’t forget, President Trump rolled back federal policies protecting transgender students. The White House notified the Supreme Court to disregard memos the Obama administration issued during the past two years regarding transgender student rights. Those memos said that prohibiting transgender students from using facilities that align with their gender identity violates federal anti-discrimination laws.

    So not only does D202 face the potential for costly lawsuits but it along with Evanston risk facing federal penalties for supporting sanctuary city policies. 

    Not to worry. D202 can confidently ask voters for a $116 million property tax increase to make up the loss.. 

    1. What this sounds like
      All of this makes me think of the 1980-90s teen sex movies where boys discuses as girls to get into the girls locker room.
      First case of ‘boy’ saying he is a boy on M, W,F and girl Tu, Th, Sat, or an attack, will bring lawsuits to make heads spin—and taxpayer dollars flow out like water.

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