South Dakota ‘Bathroom Bill’ Causes School Controversy


South Dakota could become the first state in the country to implement a law that would ban transgender students from using the bathroom they associate themselves with if it does not correspond with their biological sex.

The "bathroom bill" is only one of several measures to be introduced in the 2016 legislative season concerning transgender rights. A separate bill would put an end to a high school activities policy in the state allowing transgender student athletes to play on whichever team they choose.

While supporters of the bill say that it is meant to protect student privacy and is not meant to cause harm to any students, with some saying younger students should not be introduced to the anatomy of the opposite sex, critics argue that is discriminatory and shows that the state does not accept transgender students.

The bill would require schools to offer transgender students a "reasonable accommodation," which could mean a single-stall bathroom or the "controlled use" of a staff-designated bathroom, locker room, or shower room.

Meanwhile, federal officials report that banning students from using the bathroom of the gender they associate with is prohibited under the Title IX anti-discrimination law and could cause the state to lose its federal funding for education, reports James Nord for Yahoo! News.

"Discrimination based on a person's gender identity, a person's transgender status, or a person's nonconformity to sex stereotypes constitutes discrimination based on sex. As such, prohibiting a student from accessing the restrooms that match his [or her] gender identity is prohibited sex discrimination under Title IX."

The American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota and Human Rights Campaign are unsure exactly how many transgender students there are in the state.

The bill was approved by the state Senate earlier last week in a 20-15 vote, allowing it to move forward to the office of Governor Dennis Daugaard for his approval. While Daugaard said the measure appeared to be a good idea, he added that he will research the topic and listen to recorded testimony before his mind is made up.

Daugaard added that he plans to meet with transgender students prior to making his final decision on whether or not to sign HB 1008, writes Stephen Peters for the Human Rights Campaign.

"Knowledge is power, and we hope that by learning about their experiences, the daily challenges they face, and the damage this bill will inflict on their lives, Gov. Daugaard will show true leadership and reject this measure," said HRC President Chad Griffin. "History has never looked kindly upon those who attack the basic civil rights of their fellow Americans, and history will not treat kindly those who support this discriminatory measure."

Separate legislation currently being considered in the state would require government entities to accept the information presented on South Dakota birth certificates as official, meaning that transgender individuals would be considered by the state to be the sex they were assigned at birth rather than their currently-identified gender.

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