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House panel approves bill stipulating transgender student bathroom use


A state House committee is targeting a Vermillion School District transgender bathroom policy.

The committee endorsed a bill requiring transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that match their sex at birth.

The Vermillion School District transgender bathroom use policy has been in place about three months.

It allows a student to use the restroom for the gender “they consistently, persistently and insistently identify” with.

Mike Phelan’s transgender daughter attends school in Vermillion. He testified against a bill that prevents school districts from crafting policy like Vermillion’s.

“My daughter’s friends thought she had cancer because she had to go to the nurse so much,” Phelan says. “She was pretending she had a broken arm every time she had to use the bathroom so that it would look like there was a reason for her to go to the nurse.”

Phelan says Vermillion’s bathroom policy makes his daughter feel like she belongs. He says local school districts should set their own policy, not the state.

Others think it is the place of the state to step in and prevent bathroom policies like Vermillion’s from going into effect. The bill says locker rooms and bathrooms could only be shared by students of the same sex. And it says sex is determined at birth.

Marie Dahlhoff has children that attend school in Vermillion.

“And I feel like their privacy has been invaded with the policy that the Vermillion School Board adopted," she says.

Dahlhoff worries other school districts will pass similar policies.

Governor Dennis Daugaard vetoed a similar bill in 2016.

The bill passed 7 to 5, with Democrats and some Republicans voting against it.

Lee Strubinger is SDPB’s Rapid City-based news and political reporter. A former reporter for Fort Lupton Press (CO) and Colorado Public Radio, Lee holds a master’s in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.
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