Some 51 families with children attending a high school in Illinois' Township High School District 211, filed a lawsuit Wednesday challenging a district policy that allows a transgender student to use facilities designated for females.
The policy, said a report from The Daily Signal, was mandated by the U.S. Department of Education to accommodate the transgender student, who was born male but identifies as a female.
The lawsuit, which is the first of its kind, says Jeremy Tedesco, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, is challenging the Education Department's authority to redefine the term sex in Title IX of U.S. law to include gender identity and to enforce it against schools.
The 73 parents and 63 students who are members of the group that calls itself Students and Parents for Privacy argue in the lawsuit that the Education Department lacks the authority to redefine sex in Title IX of U.S. law to include gender identity.
They are also asking for an injunction against the Justice Department, which has enforcement authority under Title IX, and an injunction against Township School District 211 from carrying out the Education Department's mandate.
"What we're attempting to do in this case is stop the Department of Education from redefining sex in Title IX to include gender identity," Tedesco told The Daily Signal. "It has no authority whatsoever to do that."
The president of the group of students and parents said they decided that legal action "was the only thing we could do at this point" after all their efforts to work with the school district failed. Due to the sensitive nature of the case, the president of the group requested anonymity.
The issue first erupted in December 2013, according to the report, when Student A filed a complaint with the Education Department against the school district, alleging discrimination against the transgender student on the basis of sex.
The Education Department's Office of Civil Rights decided that the school district had violated federal law when it refused to grant Student A full access to the girls' locker room.
The school had previously granted Student A some accommodations, including changing the student's name on official records, allowing the student on the girls sports teams, and granting the student access to the girls' bathrooms, according to the Signal. District 211 argued, however, that giving Student A unrestrained access to the girls' locker rooms was off limits due to the privacy concerns of other girls using them and offered a private facility to Student A.
But that was not enough for Student A. The Education Department's investigation said the student felt "crushed" by the school district's decision "which she said indicated that the school did not accept her as a female."
District 211 was ordered to grant Student A full access to the girls' locker rooms and install privacy curtains inside those locker rooms, or face losing up to $6 million in federal funding, according to Thomas Petersen, director of community relations at Township High School District 211.
Title IX is the federal law that bans discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program. Whether or not Title IX applies to transgender students is an issue that has been vigorously debated, with courts ruling on both sides.