East Aurora schools may reverse transgender student policy following criticism

Photo: Courtesy East Aurora School Board.

The East Aurora school board quickly and unanimously voted to approve a policy concerning protective measures for transgender and gender nonconforming students Monday, but that policy may be rescinded by the board after a deluge of criticism from around the state flooded into the district.

The new policy, approved without discussion by the board, presents several guidelines for school administrators to use when tackling the needs and rights of transgender and gender nonconforming students.

Specifically, the policy provides that transgender and gender nonconforming students have the right to use restrooms and locker rooms that correspond to their gender-related identity that is consistently presented at school. The student also has the right to be addressed by the name they want to be called, too, without a court-order name or gender change, according to Aurora Beacon News.

The high school sports teams would also allow students to join gender-segregated teams based on their presented identity, and possibly compete in state competitions if allowed by the Illinois High School Association.

On Tuesday, The Illinois Family Institute, which is classified as an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, publicized a letter addressing the district, asking for the repeal of the policy. In the letter, IFI calls acceptance of the policy “an outrageous and ignorant decision by the East Aurora High School Board of Education” and has gone as far to say that being transgender is “fiction” and a “mental and moral disorder.”

“This is a biased, radical, and offensive school board decision that all Illinois taxpayers—especially Aurora community members with or without children in school—should vigorously and tenaciously oppose,” the IFI letter said.

By Wednesday, the board — facing the mounting criticism — quickly rethought the policy and announced they would reconvene Friday night to potentially repeal it.

“The East Aurora Board of Education will review the aforementioned policies, in conjunction with the Illinois State Board of Education, with the goal of establishing anti-discrimination and anti-bullying polices that continue to support what is already outlined in the Illinois School Code and the East Aurora School Board policies while addressing specific areas of concern in our community,” said Clayton Muhammad, spokesman for East Aurora School District 131, in a statement to Chicago Phoenix.

The Special Meeting will be held to “discuss the rescission of School Board Policy 715.13 (Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students) and School Board Policy 715.13R (Administrative Procedures, Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students),” according to the district website.

Equality Illinois, a Chicago-based LGBT rights and policy advocacy organization said it commends the East Aurora school board for its action and urges it to withstand the onslaught of criticism from IFI.

“The Illinois Family Institute and its affiliates spew venomous lies about efforts to ensure safe school environments for our children,” said Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois. “This is not how we talk about school children or the responsible school authorities who are looking out for the students’ interests.”

East Aurora Board of Education Meetings are held at the East Aurora School Service Center located at 417 Fifth Street in Aurora and will be Friday, Oct. 19 at 5:30 p.m.