When the Landmark caught wind of a lawsuit filed by parents of a transgender student to force Komarek School officials to allow their child to use the boys’ bathroom at the school, we were somewhat surprised at the response of the school and the family.
No one wanted to talk about it. Not the school; not the family. This despite the fact that the family felt strongly enough about the issue to publicly sue the school district in Cook County Circuit Court.
School district officials would speak in only the most general terms about the issue, there being a pending lawsuit and all. The family and its lawyer wouldn’t talk at all. A representative of the ACLU working with the family told our reporter it was “unfortunate” that word of the issue had gotten out.
We got the impression that the family and school district believes that somehow this will shine a light on the student in question — despite our assurances that we would name neither the child nor his parents.
Yet, the school district outs the child — every day — by prohibiting him from using bathrooms used by other children in the school.
Transgender issues have become more visible in the wake of high-profile reports of people like Chelsea Manning and Caitlyn Jenner. A subject that was formerly kept in the shadows is no longer such an enigma. Transgender people are in our midst and their needs deserve to be considered.
What’s interesting is that while the high-profile news stories about transgender people concern adults, at the local level the issue plays out with children. And, yet, there’s still a real reluctance to confront the issue — even when it presents itself.
Komarek School has known about its transgender student since February, yet the district still has not crafted a policy for accommodating such children. That needs to change. The school board needs to have the courage to address the issue openly and with an open mind.
And it shouldn’t end there. Other school districts need to do the same. It’s only a matter of time until all school districts will have to confront this issue, so there’s no use in waiting. It’s only putting off the inevitable.
And we don’t believe that this ought to be some very difficult task to accomplish. As long as school boards keep in mind what’s important — the health and well-being of children — we’re guessing that the solutions readily will reveal themselves.
How do you treat transgender people? You treat them like human beings, not pariahs. We have a feeling school children won’t have so much a problem with this as the adults of the district.
But the adults need to challenge themselves to find solutions that benefit not their preconceived notions, but children.
In the process, those fighting for the rights of transgender children can’t seek to throw a blanket on the issue, as if it’s something to be ashamed of. What’s needed are knowledge and an open discussion of the issues.
This issue may be new to North Riverside, but it’s not new elsewhere. Other area school districts have confronted this issue already. It may be time to reach out to them and get some advice on how to move forward.