Wisconsin State Rep. Jesse Kremer (R-Kewaskum) is not worried about a potential clash with the federal government over transgender restroom and locker room policies in the state's public schools. Steve Gunn of the Education Action Group Foundation says Kremer has introduced legislation to force schools to label all student restrooms and shower facilities for single sex use based on students' "actual physical gender."
The bill would legally mandate that schools create alternative restrooms for transgender students who are uncomfortable with their restroom/shower designation.
Last year, however, a directive was sent to all public schools in the nation which told administrators that their schools are legally obligated to let transgender students use the restrooms or showers of their choice. Ignoring the directive could result in the school facing legal action and losing federal financial aid.
But Kremer argues that a Wisconsin state law would give schools a dependable legal option if they defy the government's dictum. If the issue goes to court, Kremer says his side will win.
Kremer, a freshman member of the Wisconsin state Assembly, says he will take the fight to the US Supreme Court if necessary. He also said that Gov. Scott Walker had expressed interest in the bill.
The Obama administration has told school districts that they may be in violation of Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in schools. But Kremer says he has contacted the state Attorney General's office and it says it is ready to defend the state law.
Kremer thinks a battle over this issue is "important to ideological progressives who want to plant their radical ideas in the minds of young students." He adds that he does not believe that socio-political wars should be waged in schools. He believes that student safety is at risk because of a higher possibility for assault.
"I'm not trying to say that transgender people are sexual predators, but if my daughters encounter a male in a public restroom they need to get out of there," he said. "That male could be a decent person or a sexual deviant. You just don't know."
Shannon Panszi, the mother of a transgender elementary school student, says she thinks the bill is discriminatory. For her child to be told that the school does not believe "you are what you say you are" can be devastating to a child. Her child's Milwaukee County school allows transgender students to use the restroom of the gender with which they identify, according to Theo Keith reporting for WITI-TV Milwaukee.
Emails obtained through open records show that Kremer worked closely with Wisconsin Family Action president Julaine Appling on crafting the legislation since last spring. FAIR Wisconsin, an LGBT civil rights group, said that defeating the bill will be a priority during the legislative session.
Appling said it was not unusual for organizations like hers to assist lawmakers in writing proposals, whether liberal or conservative. Jessie Opoien of The Capital Times writes that Democrats have written a bill in response that would allow the state Department of Public Instruction to create a policy template concerning transgender students and require each school board in Wisconsin to adopt a policy of its own based on it.
Brian Juchems, senior director of education and policy at the Gay Straight Alliance for Safe Schools, said that the number one issue where transgender students are concerned is how to support and include transgender youth. The association has written policies about transgender students with help from the Shorewood and Menasha school districts.