CPS: Students can access bathrooms by 'gender identity'

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Chicago's Public Schools has outlined new rules allowing students access to bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond to their gender identity. (WLS)

Chicago Public Schools released new guidelines Tuesday that directs administrators to allow students and adults to access to bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond to their gender identity.

The updated policy now requires transgender students and staff to have their preference respected.

CPS, the nation's third largest school district, said the rules ensure that transgender students and those "questioning their gender identity" won't be denied access to the same education opportunities as their peers, including overnight field trips.

"The guidelines released today will help ensure every student and adult in the CPS family can participate in an environment of complete tolerance and respect," said CPS Chief Education Officer Dr. Janice K. Jackson.


The Illinois Safe Schools Alliance helped draft the new policy that's offers more specific guidance to principals. For the first time, there are guidelines to address transgender adults who work at or visit the schools.

"Really, it's the first time that I've seen any school district in the country acknowledge that teachers might be transgender, parents of students might be transgender and they will also need access to facilities and support around their gender transitions," said Owen Daniel-McCarter, of the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance.

Those who study gender issues at Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago said a child or adolescent feeling accepted or rejected in a school setting can have a lifelong impact.

"It definitely affects how you go about everything because of how much rejection you've received at a certain point of your life," said Jordee Yanez, a former CPS student who transitioned after graduating from high school in 2004.

Yanez said via telephone that he is grateful to see the new policy but wished it could have happened sooner.

"Now, students are not going to have to worry about that," Yanez said. "They are literally just going to have to worry about going to school ... and everything else will be taken care because CPS has taken a huge step by putting policy in place."

Jackson said the first step is the policy update. The next step is increasing awareness and education, which may mean changes to the curriculum.

The rules come in the wake of a controversial North Carolina law that requires transgender people to use bathrooms in state government buildings and public schools that correspond to the gender on their birth certificates.

Last year, a suburban Chicago school district reached an agreement with federal officials to allow a transgender female student to use a girls' locker room.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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