New Law Would Detail Non-Discriminatory Policy on Transgender Students
California is poised to become then first state in the country to put into law what public schools must do to ensure transgender pupils aren’t discriminated against.
Primarily that means being allowed to use a restroom or locker room that matches the gender the student identifies with, which may not be the same as the gender listed on their birth certificate.
“(This) bill would ensure that transgender students have equal access to facilities and activities – such as gym class – that match their gender identity,” writes the American Civil Liberties Union in support of the bill, AB 1266 by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, San Francisco Democrat.
Many public schools have already modified their policies despite the lack of state intervention. Some did so nearly 10 years ago when the state passed a law preventing discrimination based on gender identification.
Just as it did last year, Ammiano’s bill has drawn the ire of some self-styled “traditional values” groups who say it will be disruptive and could result in “discomfort, confusion and even harassment,” according to a recent email blast by Advocates for Faith & Freedom.
A “nonprofit legal ministry dedicated to protecting religious liberty in the courts” is how the group describes itself at its website.
“Please pray for this bill, as it is now in the hands of Gov. Jerry Brown. Also, please keep our children in your prayers as they experience quite a different school environment.”
While the Democratic governor refuses to publicly comment on bills before they reach his desk, his signature seems likely since the measure is largely a restatement of California’s 10-year-old ban on discrimination against persons because of their gender identity.
According to Ammiano:
“Current California law already protects students from discrimination in education based on sex and gender identity, many school districts do not understand and are not presently in compliance with their obligations to treat transgender students the same as all other students in the specific areas addressed by this bill.
“(But) current law is deficient in that it does not provide specific guidance about how to apply the mandate of non-discrimination in sex-segregated programs, activities and facilities.”
Los Angeles Unified – the second largest school district in the country – adopted policies to accommodate transgender students in 2004 and updated them in 2011. The district reports no incidents or lawsuits.
San Francisco Unified has a policy. Also Willits Unified in Mendocino County and San Rafael City Schools.
The California Interscholastic Federation, which regulates high school sports, has a new policy in effect as of August 1 that states:
“All students should have the opportunity to participate in (athletic) activities in a manner that is consistent with their gender identity, irrespective of the gender listed on a student’s records.”
The California Safe Schools Coalition offers a model policy school districts can use for transgender and “gender nonconforming” students.
It’s similar to those policies adopted by Los Angeles Unified, San Francisco Unified and another model policy put forward by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network.
According to the Safe Schools Coalition, a “transgender” student’s “gender identity is different from their gender assigned at birth.”
Generally, all the policies say a student should be able to use the restroom and the locker room that corresponds to the gender identity they express at school. Students who want more privacy – for whatever reason — should be allowed to use a single stall restroom.
The policy of Los Angeles Unified allows transgender students the same opportunities to participate in physical education as other students.
Participation in competitive athletic activities and contact sports is addressed on a case-by-case basis.
Advocates for Faith & Freedom say they are representing a mother and her daughter who say such policies aren’t fair to other students.
The daughter said a boy who identifies himself as a girl subjected her to harassment in the locker room. He rarely undressed to change into gym clothes but watched as she did.
“This situation understandably made (her) feel uncomfortable and quite vulnerable. Despite whatever personal identity (the transgender boy) feels, he is still a boy, and (the girl) did not want to change in front of him day after day.”
Last year, a nearly identical measure by Ammiano was bottled up in committee. This year, the Legislature had OK’d his bill by July 3.
Ammiano’s bill was one of dozens lawmakers voluntarily held back while Brown was vacationing in Italy and Germany so the 12-day clock the governor has to act wouldn’t run out in his absence.
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