A new Virginia GOP bill filed by lawmakers this week would require schools to verify that children are using the restroom that corresponds with their “correct anatomical sex.”
The bill, sponsored by Republican Del. Mark Cole, who called it “common sense legislation,” was created with the intention of dealing with the issue of which restrooms transgender students can use while at school, writes Moriah Balingit for The Washington Post.
Cole went on to say that schools have previously faced lawsuits concerning not allowing students to use particular bathrooms, adding that a policy on the topic that offered clear guidelines was necessary to prevent future problems in both schools and courts.
This is not the first time schools in the state have dealt with the issue. Previously, a federal judge in Gloucester County denied the request of a transgender student to use the boys’ bathroom despite the US Department of Justice agreeing with the student. In a separate instance, a high school student in Fairfax County sued the local school board after they decided to implement a “gender identity” clause into its nondiscrimination policy in response to concerns that the new rule would cause uncomfortable situations in bathrooms and locker rooms.
According to House Bill 663, “anatomical sex” is defined as “the physical condition of being male or female” determined by one’s anatomy.
All public bathrooms and locker rooms would fall under the protection of the bill, which would also require schools to accommodate any student request for private bathroom facilities.
The bill allows a fine of $50 to be assessed by law enforcement to any student who violates the bathroom law by knowingly using a public bathroom that does not correspond with their anatomical sex.
The bill has evoked strong criticism from legislators, activists and rights organizations. Civil rights advocate Tim Peacock argued that in order to properly enforce the law, students would have to be willing to subject themselves to an inspection of their genitals before using the bathroom, writes David Edwards for RawStory.
“This is what the conservative movement has devolved into: forcing children to allow adults to examine their genitals out of misplaced fear that transgender kids and adults might commit a hypothetical never-before-seen act of violence or sexual aggression,” Peacock wrote.
Cole replied to this suggestion by saying students’ gender could be checked through a birth certificate or school registration, adding that enforcement of the rules would be based on complaints received by other students in the bathrooms.
“If you’re in a shower, it would be obvious and also depending on what you’re doing in the bathroom, it’ll be obvious,” Cole said.
The US Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights maintains the viewpoint that districts should allow transgender students to use the bathroom they feel the most comfortable using and suggests that restricting their ability to do so is a form of discrimination.