The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) found an Illinois school district in violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 this week for denying a transgender student access to girls’ locker rooms. The school district raised concerns about the privacy of female students but took a number of steps to address OCR’s findings, including offering the student alternative locker room facilities and installing privacy curtains.

OCR found that the school district’s actions did not satisfy the requirement to provide the transgender student equal access to girls’ locker rooms. OCR and the school district were unable to resolve the matter voluntarily and OCR issued a letter finding the school district in violation of Title IX.

OCR has taken an usually strong position in this case, stating that if the school district does not resolve the matter within 30 calendar days, OCR will issue a letter of impending enforcement action. If the complaint remains unresolved after this, OCR may move to terminate federal funding or refer the matter to the U.S. Department of Justice for judicial proceedings.

This case has implications for higher education institutions as it underscores OCR’s continued vigorous enforcement of Title IX and highlights OCR’s expectations of education institutions with respect to access to restrooms and related facilities, and the use of names and pronouns of choice for transgender students.

Attorneys in Ballard Spahr’s Higher Education Group regularly advise educational institutions on compliance with Title IX and other civil rights laws including Title VI, Section 504, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Please contact Olabisi “Bisi” Okubadejo at 410.528.5532 or with any questions.

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