Chicago Public Schools has directed school leaders to post signs the district says “makes it clear that our restrooms are open for use to anyone who feels comfortable in that space.”

There are three types of student bathrooms under the new district guidelines, which have drawn criticism from some parents. “Boys+” facilities have stalls and urinals, while “girls+” restrooms just have stalls. Anyone is allowed to use boys+ and girls+ bathrooms. Schools must also offer single-stall restrooms available to any student. Staff continue to have separate restrooms.

The district announced the new signage in a video posted to social media Nov. 27 and on Dec. 3 in a weekly newsletter emailed to families. Camie Pratt, CPS’ chief Title IX officer, is set to answer questions about the signs in an online “Ask the Expert” session scheduled for 4 p.m. Tuesday.

“Posting these temporary paper signs is the initial step we are taking while the district works on a long-term strategy for permanent restroom signage that is gender inclusive,” Pratt wrote in a letter to parents.

CPS representatives say the signage aligns with guidance published in June by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights affirming the rights of transgender students.

Because the federal guidance was announced after the district’s annual budget had been set, CPS said, the cost of permanent signage will be part of next year’s budget. School leaders are using their own budgets to cover the cost of printing temporary signs, CPS said. Signs were supposed to be up by Dec. 1.

A petition demanding CPS “rescind this ridiculous and disgusting policy” has garnered more than 2,600 signatures. The petition was circulated by the Chicago Republican Party.

Kelli Denard said she heard about the new signs from that organization and opposes them. “Even though my son and I share a bathroom, we don’t use it while the other is in the bathroom,” said Denard, whose son attends Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy in the Roseland neighborhood.

“If CPS is all in on gender equity, then I expect to see signs for the offices where CPS employees work as well, in all of their offices. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.”

The district indicated there are “men’s+” and “women’s+” signs as well.

CPS says it continues to engage students in policy development on LGBTQ+ protections and supports. A 2019 youth risk behavior survey found about 23% of CPS students identify as LGBTQ.

In her letter to parents, Pratt pointed to a national study that determined about four in 10 transgender students avoid bathrooms at school because they feel unsafe or uncomfortable. In 2016, CPS announced that transgender and gender nonconforming students would be able to use restrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity.

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