Parents Defending Education submitted a public records request to Waterloo Community Unit School District 5 seeking LGBTQ and transgender material from the district. One document PDE received was a presentation titled “The Legal Rights of LGBTQI+ Students in Schools” from the organization “Prevent School Violence Illinois” dated October 28, 2022. The presentation appears to be for district staff and asserts that gender identity is unrelated to biological sex.
Gender identity is a person’s sense or experience of belonging to a particular gender category as a man or a boy, woman or a girl, or an identity outside of those binary categories. Gender identity is unrelated to the person’s sex assigned at birth. Unlike gender expression, gender identity is not visible to others.
The presentation also features the “Gender Unicorn.” The “Gender Unicorn” is an image that schools have used in an attempt to teach children that gender exists on a spectrum. The presentation also uses the term “sex equity” and states that “students shall be supported in a manner consistent with their gender identity.” The presentation explains that students have a right to “be ‘out’ and also not be ‘outed'” and to “use chosen names and pronouns.” The presentation then lists an “obligation” of the school to “not reveal students’ identities to anyone else (including the students’ families) without students’ permission.” The presentation also explains that the “intentional refusal to use someone’s correct pronouns is equivalent to harassment and a violation of one’s civil rights.”
The presentation promotes “gender support plans” for students and specifically provides an example created by the LGBTQ organization Gender Spectrum. Gender support plans are used to transition the gender of students at school, often without parents knowing. The presentation additionally states that schools should “encourage respect for all students by discussing LGBTQI+ people and issues,” “identify ‘safe spaces’ where LGBTQI+ youth can receive support from administrators, teachers, or other school staff,” and “ensure that health curricula or educational materials that is relevant to LGBTQI+ youth.”
On May 15, 2023, the school district adopted a policy titled “Use of Restroom Facilities and Other Gender Identity Considerations.” This policy allows students to use the restrooms and locker rooms that match their preferred gender identity. PDE received several emails from the public records request regarding backlash from the community and students. One email that PDE received was from Superintendent Brian Charron. To protest this policy, a significant number of male students decided to use the nurse’s restroom at the same time. The superintendent then labeled this act of protesting as “harassment of transgender students.” He stated in the email:
The male students planned to use the nurse’s office restroom at the same time, resulting in a line. This line grew dramatically throughout the day with male and female students, filling the hallway and causing students to be tardy to or miss classes. These actions were not the appropriate way to send a message to the School District. We are investigating this behavior as planned harassment of transgender students as well.
The superintendent then added: “To the extent we determine that the nurse’s office bathroom line was a form of harassment, students will be disciplined for their participation in the harassment.” In another email, the superintendent appears to explain that the cost of altering a restroom to appease students could cost $15,000 to $20,000.
In another email that PDE received that is dated May 2, 2023, an English teacher at Waterloo High School and a sponsor for the “Diversity Club” wrote a letter complaining that the school district’s transgender policy required parental involvement. She stated: “My issue with the proposal is the repeated use of the word ‘required’ with regard to students’ parents and their participation in all of these arrangements.” She later explained in the letter:
Secondly, as the faculty advisor to the Diversity Club, I am aware of a number of students who do not have supportive parents with regards to their existence as transgender, nonbinary, or gender nonconforming. It is outside our job as educators and administrators, to FORCE these kids to come out to their parents/guardians as a requirement for them to use the restroom they are most comfortable using. The requirement of parent involvement needs to be removed from the policy because it is in direct violation of the Illinois Human Rights Act.
The teacher continued to explain: “I sincerely hope that the policy is not adopted as it is currently written. I fear that some of our students would be in real danger of self-harm, depression, and further harassment at both school and home should this policy be adopted as is.”