– An association of concerned students and parents that filed a federal lawsuit
to defend student privacy in a Palatine school district are now seeking to intervene in a separate state-level lawsuit
filed by the American Civil Liberties Union that threatens the privacy of thousands of Illinois students.
The emergency motion to intervene and motion to dismiss
filed Thursday in the Circuit Court of Cook County seek to prevent the ACLU from misusing non-discrimination provisions within the Illinois Human Rights Act to dismantle student privacy at Township High School District 211. Alliance Defending Freedom and Thomas More Society attorneys represent the students and parents.
“Schools must protect the privacy needs of every child,” said ADF Legal Counsel Jeana Hallock. “The ACLU’s attempt to obtain unrestricted access for boys to girls’ locker rooms by pointing to the Illinois Human Rights Law turns that law on its head. It makes no sense whatsoever to say that facilities that are exempt from the law are somehow subject to it.”
“When the Legislature added ‘sex’ to the HRA to protect women from discrimination, it recognized that good public policy reasons exist for the state to permit facilities like restrooms and locker rooms to be distinct for women and men,” Hallock added. “In the post-Weinstein era, we understand even more potently why that just makes good sense.”
“The ACLU’s sleight of hand on the language of the Illinois Human Rights Act doesn’t change the law,” said Thomas More Society Chief Counsel Thomas Brejcha. “The HRA not only doesn’t require what the ACLU claims it requires, it actually allows schools to fulfill their duty to respect the safety and privacy rights of all students.”
As the motion to intervene in Maday v. Township High School District 211
explains, granting what the ACLU is requesting would invalidate the Illinois Human Rights Act’s privacy-facility provision, “which exempts from the IHRA ‘any facility…which is distinctly private in nature such as restrooms, shower rooms, bath houses, health clubs and other similar facilities for which the Department, in its rules and regulations, may grant exemptions based on bona fide considerations of public policy.’ Protecting the bodily privacy of students who are under the supervision and control of District officials is a bona fide public policy interest, and further is a duty for District officials who are responsible for the students while at school.”
The motion to dismiss asks the court to throw out the ACLU’s lawsuit. The court will consider that motion if it allows the families to intervene in the case.
Brejcha and Thomas Olp of the Thomas More Society are lead counsel in the lawsuit. ADF attorneys are serving as co-counsel.