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Governor Pritzker Signs Executive Order Addressing Gender Identity in Illinois Schools

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July 3, 2019

By Jennifer Smith and Jackie Wernz

On June 30, 2019, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker signed an executive order aimed at studying and providing recommendations on legal rights and supports in the school environment for transgender, non-binary, and gender nonconforming students. The executive order also requests that the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) take steps to provide additional supports for transgender, non binary, and gender nonconforming students, including issuing non-regulatory guidance on such students’ rights and issuing sample policies or procedures for schools regarding supports for such students. Although the executive order does not create any new laws or interpretations thereof, it is a strong signal of the importance of this issue to the Pritzker administration. The initiative also adds Illinois to a growing list of states taking the lead on addressing discrimination and harassment based on sex and gender identity as the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) continues to withdraw from such enforcement under Title IX.

The main purpose of the executive order was to create the Affirming and Inclusive Schools Task Force in the Office of the Governor. The Task Force is directed to identify strategies and best practices for ensuring a welcoming, safe, supportive, and inclusive school environment for students regardless of gender identity. A main goal of the Task Force is also to promote cooperation and collaboration between relevant stakeholders in the State. The executive order provides the guidelines for the makeup of the Task Force, which will contain one member from the Governor’s Office and up to 25 other members with experience working with gender identity issues. Examples of types of individuals who might be involved include students, parents or guardians, teachers, school administrators, lawyers, medical professionals, and representatives from community-based organizations.

The executive order directs the Task Force to produce a report to the Governor by January 1, 2020, addressing issues such as a summary of relevant nondiscrimination and anti-harassment laws, a description of best practices, and findings and recommendations for ensuring support in schools for impacted students. After the report is issued, the Task Force will be dissolved.

The executive order also “requests” that the Illinois State Board of Education take a number of steps to support transgender, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming students. This includes developing non-regulatory guidance on legal rights, developing and making available model policies or procedures addressing students’ rights, and making other resources available for supporting such students.

For more information on the executive order or the requirements of state or federal laws regarding students based on sex or gender identity, contact Jennifer Smith, Jackie Wernz, or any other Franczek attorney.

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