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California Takes on Delicate Dilemma: Which Bathroom for Transgender School Children

RUSS REPORT - Hats off to California State Assembly by Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco for passing what could become one of the most contentious bills in the state. AB 1266, dubbed the “School Bathroom Bill” by some, sailed through the Assembly on May 9 with a strictly partisan vote of 46 to 25. 

Ammiano’s legislation mandates that elementary, middle and high school students be allowed, among other things, to access opposite sex bathrooms, locker rooms, and other “facilities,” based on the student’s chosen “gender-identity” and regardless of what gender is listed in the pupils records. 

 

The Bill was read for the first time in the Senate and referred to the Standing Committee on Rules for assignment. 

Carlos Alcalá, Communications Director for Ammiano said the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) has been implementing this plan for years. Alcala noted, “A ‘person’ from the school district came and testified for this bill in the Assembly and said it’s been a really positive thing in the school district.” 

Existing California law already prohibits public schools from discriminating against gender, gender identity, and gender expression and it requires that participation in a particular physical education activity or sport, if required of pupils of one sex, be available to pupils of each sex. 

The majority of Americans would probably agree that gender identified students should be permitted “to participate in sex- segregated school programs and activities, including athletic teams and competitions,” but the “line” appears to be drawn on opposite sex bathrooms, locker rooms and other such facilities.  

Concerns are resonating over the psychological trauma of heterosexual children, particularly elementary and middle school age children, who for the first time could be exposed to opposite gender identified children sharing what predominately has been gender specific facilities. 

Some parents worry students who object to sharing facilities with gender identified individuals could be subject to discrimination claims and punishment under anti-bullying laws while others say AB 1266 flies in the face of religious beliefs and parental discretion. 

In a recent press release Karen England, Executive Director of Capitol Resource Institute (CRI), said "AB 1266 requires that schools allow children of any gender to participate on any sports team, and enter into locker rooms, showers and bathrooms of their choice. This bill's prohibition on gender identity discrimination means that a boy claiming gender confusion is permitted to share those facilities with girls. There is no privacy protection for the majority of students."

 

Analysis for AB 1266 cites a Court challenge California Education Committee, LLC, et al. v. Jack O'Connell, a case that sought to challenge the definition of "gender” as well as a policy adopted by the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) in 2012.

 

The policy’s author states (in part), “When transgender students are denied the opportunity to participate in physical education classes in a manner consistent with their gender identity, they miss out on these important benefits and suffer from stigmatization and isolation. In addition, in many cases, students who are transgender are unable to get the credits they need to graduate on time when, for example, they do not have a place to get ready for gym class."

 

Joel Baum, Director of Education and Training- Gender Spectrum, reaffirmed the CIF policy.  “Transgender students should have a fair chance at graduating. They shouldn’t be singled out and excluded,” said Baum, a former middle school science teacher, principal and district administrator. “Students I’ve worked with who have been excluded from appropriate school programs and facilities have encountered medical issues as well as humiliation, significantly impacting their educational experience.”

 

One Psychologist suggested that, preceding any law, adequate scientific testing (perhaps at several well-monitored schools) of the psychological and behavioral effects of allowing boys and girls to switch to restrooms/ locker rooms where opposite biological- gendered children had been “safe” in gender-specific bathrooms and showers.  What might then be discovered are protocols that maximize a sense of safety and comfort for all students.

 

Alcala went on to say, “We’re not talking about someone who, one day, shows up in a skirt at school and plays a girl, we’re talking about something that is recognized by the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association. It is a deep rooted gender identity and we believe most school officials are intelligent enough to recognize the difference between somebody who is causing trouble and somebody who is merely expressing their gender identity.”

 

Nearly 700,000 students attend schools in LAUSD. The District has many schools that are extremely overcrowded, have high dropout and expulsion rates, low academic performance along with poor maintenance and incompetent administrations. So, to the contrary, it is naive to think that this law could never be abused or exploited by someone with less than savory intentions or that ALL school officials have the where-with-all to “recognize the difference.

 

The California Catholic Conference also testified in opposition to Ammiano’s bill. Their statement reads, "As the governor has recently reminded us, subsidiarity – allowing decisions to be made at the level closest to the problem – makes sense in addressing real needs.  A few of our students may be struggling with or confused about their gender identity or expression, but individual responses handled confidentially while protecting the dignity of the student, involving the parents, honoring the privacy rights of others, and maintaining the good order of the school would be far more preferable. 

 

“We suggest that one more state law imposing a "one size fits all" politically correct agenda is not a good public policy.  Solidarity with those who may be the object of discrimination is appropriate and should be shared by all, but we ought to balance that with common sense and trust in the leadership of the local school level." 

 

Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) legal defense organization specializing in the defense of religious freedom, parental rights, and other civil liberties. PJI has been a vocal presence in opposition of AB 1266 since its inception.

 

Brad Dacus, PJI’s President, said, “We cannot stand by and allow politicians controlled by radical special interest groups to sacrifice the privacy of the 99% of our students who are not confused about their biological gender for the 1% (or less) who are. If AB 1266 passes the Senate and is signed into law, we at PJI will strategically scrutinize it for a potential challenge in a Court of law.

 

Below is a list of organizations, both pro and con, that readers interested in this issue can access for more information. It is incumbent on anyone wishing to have their voice heard on this issue to contact their State Senator and express their views.

 

● Equality California (EQCA) www.EQCA.org

● Gender Spectrum http://www.genderspectrum.org  

● Transgender Law Center www.TransgenderLawCenter.org 

● Capitol Resource Institute www.capitolresource.org  

● Pacific Justice Institute www.pacificjustice.org

● Gender Insanity www.genderinsanity.com

 

 

 

(Katharine Russ is an investigative reporter. She is a regular contributor to CityWatch and to the North Valley Reporter. Katharine Russ can be reached at:   [email protected] ) –cw

 

 

CityWatch

Vol 11 Issue 40

Pub: May 17, 2013