South Dakota just passed the first transgender bathroom ban in the country. Last school, year a biologically female student at Lincoln High School in Sioux Falls came out as transgender. The student began going by the name Thomas Lewis.
Both teachers and classmates complied with the request by the transgender student to use male pronouns when referencing or addressing Lewis. The accommodations made by the school did not include the student being permitted to use the boys’ restroom.
The senior South Dakota transgender student opted to go home for lunch break and use the bathroom there, and then drive back to Lincoln High School for afternoon classes.
— CBS News (@CBSNews) February 17, 2016
Thomas Lewis spoke out against a bill in the South Dakota State Legislature which would ban transgender students from using school restrooms and lockers for the gender the identify. The new state law would require all students to use the facilities which match their biological gender or genitalia, Yahoo News notes.
“[South Dakota transgender law] makes me feel like I’m not a human being,” Lewis told the lawmakers. “The law means that no matter what people might think at school, how they might accept me at school, the state doesn’t.”
The South Dakota State Senate voted 20-15 to pass the bill. It is now sitting on the desk of Republican Governor Dennis Daugaard’s desk awaiting signature. According to CBS News, the governor appears to support the transgender bathroom ban, but stated last week he will study the matter further and meet with some transgender students before making a final decision.
S. Dakota may become first state to ban transgender students from using restrooms of the gender they identify with. https://t.co/VGmcc0XSUz
— CNN Breaking News (@cnnbrk) February 17, 2016
South Dakota state officials are also pondering a measure related to transgender student athletes. LGBT advocates in the state want students to be able to play on the “team of their choice.” In spite of which gender the student identifies with, they still possess the same physical stature, strengths, and weaknesses associated with their biology.
Most youth sports leagues stop permitting co-ed play by the age of 10 or 12 due to the differences in upper body strength between boys and girls. Should a biological senior male identify as a female and play on the girls’ volleyball team, the opposing team, which could include girls as young as 14, would be exposed to the someone with the strength of a man spiking a ball towards their head.
Supporters of the South Dakota anti-transgender restroom bill maintain that the legislation is necessary to protect the privacy of all students and is not intended to cause harm to LGBT students. GOP Senator David Omdahl gave voice to some parent concerns when he stated that it is simply not appropriate for a female student to be exposed to a male’s anatomy in the school restroom or locker room.
The passed transgender restroom law states that schools must offer a “reasonable accommodation” for transgender students. Schools which have gone the same route across the country, some of which are now the subject of lawsuits by students, have offer the use of single-occupancy bathrooms or “controlled use” of a staff restroom or changing area.
Federal officials in the Obama administration claim that preventing students from using the bathroom and locker room which they feel matches their gender identity is a violation of the Title IX anti-discrimination law. If South Dakota schools, and schools in other states, refuse to comply with the current interpretation of Title IX, they could lose taxpayer-funded federal education program dollars.
“We would always have an accommodation for a student to use a bathroom on campus,” Sioux Falls Superintendent Brian Maher said. “We would not make a student leave campus to go to the bathroom. Whether or not it would be the bathroom of that student’s choice or not could be another issue.”
The South Dakota State Legislature will also soon vote on a bill related to gender identity and birth certificates. If passed, the measure would require all government entities in the state recognize the individual’s gender based solely upon the male or female markings on the official documents which are issued at birth.
What do you think about the South Dakota transgender bathroom law?
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