A California lawmaker has introduced legislation to further protect transgender students from discrimination at schools.
State Assemblyman Tom Ammiano-D proposed AB1266 which explicitly grants students the “right to participate in sex-segregated programs, activities, and facilities” at public schools regardless of what gender is listed on their school records.
The bill would allow transgender students to use public school restrooms and join sports teams that correspond with their expressed gender.
“The simple act of using the restroom at school can be a stressful and even humiliating experience for a transgender student who is forced to use a bathroom that is inconsistent with their gender identity,” Senior Legislative Assistant to Ammiano Wendy Rae Hill told 429Magazine
She added that the bill does not require schools to create new programs or new facilities for any students and therefore would not have any fiscal impact.
Ammiano’s proposal comes in the wake of a transgender rights case currently pending in Colorado. In February, the Mathis family filed civil suit against a local school district after their transgender daughter was denied the right to use the girl’s bathroom.
Michael Silverman of The Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, the organization representing the Mathis’ told 429Magazine why AB1266 is important in the larger struggle for transgender rights.
“Transgender students are protected under California law, but some school districts do not follow the law,” he said. “So the law needs to be clarified to further protect them.”
His said his firm receives many calls from parents of transgender students who are experiencing harassment and discrimination, including not having access to bathrooms.
Kerry, a 19-year-old transgender male who asked to remain anonymous, said being forced to use the girl’s locker room is “awkward” and “uncomfortable,” and notes that male and female restrooms carry different social norms.
“You don’t speak to strangers and there’s urinal etiquette; you take the urinal that is farthest away from someone,” he told 429Magazine of the men’s bathroom, which could make transgender females feel out of place.
“Transgender students who are denied access to the restroom appropriate to their gender identity often report avoiding using school restrooms at all,” Hill added, “which not only places that student’s health at risk, but also significantly interferes with that student’s ability to learn.”
There is opposition growing against Ammiano’s bill. According to the Huffington Post, Executive Director of the Capitol Resource Institute Karen England said her organization would fight AB1266, calling it “extreme” and “dangerous.”
“This is really a rare thing, so to make this drastic, radical mandate on the schools for an extremely rare situation is just hijacking the school system,” England said.
Silverman countered, “there is nothing dangerous or extreme about wanting to treat all California students equally.”
He also addressed concerns regarding whether or not a transgender female playing on a girl’s sports team could lend an unfair advantage.
“Sports foster teamwork, reliance on friends, and self-respect—none of those qualities are less important to transgender students,” Silverman says. “In sports and athletics one of the touchstones will always be fair play. Any allegations of unfair play should be dealt with as they come up.”