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UPDATE: Transgender student rights bill signed into law

Officials with Santa Clarita Valley's largest school district say implementation is uncertain

Posted: August 13, 2013 4:40 p.m.
Updated: August 13, 2013 6:52 p.m.
 

SANTA CLARITA - California has enshrined certain rights for transgender students in state law, requiring public schools to allow those students access to whichever restroom and locker room they choose.


But an official from the largest school district in the Santa Clarita Valley said specifics on implementing the law haven’t been received by the district.


As authored, the bill, Assembly Bill 1266, “would require that a pupil be permitted to participate in sex-segregated school programs and activities, including athletic teams and competitions, and use facilities consistent with his or her gender identity, irrespective of the gender listed on the pupil’s records.”


While officials in the William S. Hart Union High School District are aware of the legislation, according to Greg Lee, director of human resources and equity services for the district, they have yet to receive specific guidelines on the law, such as training materials for staff members, from either the county or the state.


“I don’t recall ever having a parent that insisted that their child be allowed access to a bathroom that was not consistent with their physiological gender,” Lee said.


“They’ve only wanted to ensure that their child would not be bullied in the bathroom that they would typically be expected to use.”


But he said he was aware of other situations that had come up over the years.


“In the situations I was involved in, as a site administrator, and in the cases I know of in our district, arrangements were made for students to use the health office restroom to change clothes,” he said.


“This has often been a way to address students with various ‘body image’ challenges, such as obesity or students who felt self-conscious due to significant burn scars or other marks.”


Lee said parents will be kept in the loop regarding how the law might change district policies.

Local representatives
Assemblyman Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, said he thinks the bill is overly broad.


“It’s setting a broad, one-size-fits-all standard and is unnecessary in my view,” Wilk said Tuesday.


Wilk said there is a possibility for some to take advantage of the legislation to gain a competitive advantage in a sport or access to a locker room or bathroom of the opposite gender.


“I think there’s going to be very little of that, but it could definitely happen,” he said.


Sen. Steve Knight, R-Palmdale, cited similar concerns in voting against the legislation.


“The biggest reason for me is there are now an immense amount of openings for people to game the system,” Knight said Tuesday.


Provisions for transgender student athletes are already included in the governing bylaws for the California Interscholastic Federation, the group that administrates and oversees student athletics statewide, he said.


Knight also said such decisions should be left up to school districts.


“If a school district, like San Francisco has or L.A. has, wants to implement these types of policies, fine,” Knight said. “But it should not be a matter of state law.”


Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, who did not vote on the bill, expressed a similar sentiment.


“When possible, local school districts should be left with the responsibility of addressing the needs of their individual students,” Pavley wrote in an email.


Assemblyman Steve Fox, D-Palmdale, said he abstained from voting out of respect for student privacy.


“While I am very sympathetic to the suffering of young people who are struggling with complicated gender identity issues, I did not support AB 1266 because I wanted to guarantee student safety and all students’ rights to privacy,” he said.

Other reaction

Officials from the Transgender Law Center, a law and policy lobbying group that focuses on transgender issues, said the bill will “ensure the success and well-being of transgender students.”

"Now, every transgender student in California will be able to get up in the morning knowing that when they go to school as their authentic self they will have the same fair chance at success as their classmates," said Masen Davis, executive director of the Transgender Law Center in a post on the center's website.

 The Associated Press contributed to this report.

 

 

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