CHICAGO (Reuters) – Chicago’s public school system said on Tuesday it would allow transgender students to use restrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their gender identities.
The move by the third-largest U.S. public school system comes during a national debate over equality, privacy and religious freedom as some states have passed or proposed legislation that supporters of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights say is discriminatory.
Chicago joins the New York City Department of Education and Los Angeles Unified School District in allowing bathroom choice for transgender students.
“Chicago Public Schools, like much of the country, has become far more aware of the needs and experiences of the transgender community, and it’s crucial for CPS guidelines to reflect our commitment to promoting safe and inclusive schools,” Chief Education Officer Janice Jackson said in an emailed statement.
North Carolina enacted a law in March requiring transgender people to use restrooms in schools and other public buildings that match the sex listed on their birth certificates. That measure has drawn criticism from prominent entertainers and corporations.
Backers of the legislation in the Republican-controlled North Carolina legislature say it is meant to protect privacy rights and keep children and women safe from sexual predators.
Chicago’s new guidelines allow students to participate in school programs including overnight field trips and physical and sexual health classes that correspond to their gender identities and to dress and be addressed in a way that corresponds with their identities.
The district said the guidelines also applied to adult transgender employees, visitors and volunteers.