Panel Approves Bill Regulating Transgender Students In School Bathrooms

Jan 25, 2016

A bill outlining which students can use which bathrooms in South Dakota schools is past its first legislative hurdle. The House State Affairs committee Monday approved House Bill 1008. Supporters of the measure say it protects student privacy; opponents say the move harms students who are transgender.

State Representative Fred Deutsch is the prime sponsor of House Bill 1008. He says his bill restricts transgender students from using facilities designated for people with the opposite physical sex. Deutsch says that protects the privacy of all students.

“If a transgender student needs to go to the bathroom, for example, and they’re a biologic female, they could go to any bathroom they wanted to that was with biologic females or they could go to a bathroom that the school district said you can use through their accommodation process,” Deutsch says. “For example, maybe they’re allowed to use a faculty restroom or maybe the school has a transgender restroom.”

Deutsch says control rests with local schools to determine what bathroom and locker room accommodations are “reasonable” for transgender students.

Libby Skarin with the ACLU opposes the bill. She says transgender students want the same rights as everyone else.

“Generally I do think that it is really important to recognize that restrooms and locker rooms can be a place of discomfort for a lot of students and not just those who are transgender, right? And schools do have an obligation to ensure that their facilities protect privacy, but they can do this in a way that doesn’t harm these already marginalized students,” Skalin says. “So, for example, they could ensure that they have lockable private bathroom stalls, lockable private changing and shower stalls in locker rooms, or privacy curtains that any student could use if they felt they didn’t want to dress in front of others or shower in front of others.”

Members of the House State Affairs committee say schools are asking for guidance on managing restrooms and locker rooms for transgender students. Lawmakers voted 10 to three to support the legislation. House Bill 1008 moves to the full state House of Representatives.