The Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) on Thursday announced the release of non-regulatory guidance on protections for transgender, nonbinary and gender non-conforming students under the Illinois Human Rights Act.

The new guidance document was developed based on a recommendation from the Affirming and Inclusive Schools Task Force. School districts, students and their families now have a resource to better understand the protections afforded by the Act that ensure welcoming, safe, supportive, and inclusive school environments for all.

“Ensuring every Illinois student has access to a safe, validating learning environment where they can be their true self is a top priority for my administration,” Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker said in a release. “This guidance from the Illinois Department of Human Rights will provide students, caregivers, and educators another tool to ensure classrooms are welcoming, affirming, and inclusive for all students.” 

“Illinois schools must be safe, affirming environments for all students,” IDHR Director Jim Bennett said. “The guidance is intended for school districts, students and their families and caregivers, to better understand their rights and responsibilities under the Act. Today’s issuance of guidance helps schools create safe, supportive environments for transgender, nonbinary, and gender non-conforming students to learn and be their true selves.”

Students in Illinois have the right to an educational environment free from discrimination and harassment based on their gender-related identity. Nationally, 78% of transgender and nonbinary youth report being subject to discrimination due to their gender identity, and transgender students who experience a hostile school climate are 41% more likely to attempt suicide.

IDHR encourages every school district to strengthen its policies, procedures, and practices relating to support for these students.

Click here to view the guidance online.

The IDHR stands ready to investigate charges of discrimination. Any Illinoisan, including minors, who believes they’ve been a victim of discrimination based on their gender identity, or any protected class under the Act, should file a charge. Charges may be filed online at Illinois.gov/DHR or by calling 312-814-6200.

Background on the Act’s Protection from Discrimination

On Dec. 6, 1979, the Act was signed into law, creating broad civil rights coverage for the people of Illinois.

In 2006, the Act was expanded to include “sexual orientation” as a distinct protected class and “gender-related identity” within the definition of “sexual orientation.” Thus, Illinois became one of the first states in the nation to explicitly provide for the protection of the rights of transgender, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming individuals to be free from discrimination.

At the time of the publication of this guidance, an increasing number of states have enacted laws that explicitly prohibit discrimination of students on the basis of both sexual orientation and gender-related identity.