House, Senate Bills Direct Transgender Students in Restroom, Locker Room Usage

By Carpenter, Tim | The Topeka Capital-Journal, March 18, 2016 | Go to article overview

House, Senate Bills Direct Transgender Students in Restroom, Locker Room Usage


Carpenter, Tim, The Topeka Capital-Journal


Bills introduced in the Kansas House and Senate require transgender students at public schools and universities to use restrooms and other facilities that correspond with their gender at birth, lawmakers said Thursday.

Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, R-Shawnee, said the newly minted legislation was designed to protect students' privacy, especially in places in which they could be undressed, such as locker rooms, restrooms and showers.

State action is warranted in Kansas to protect the dignity, health and welfare of students, she said.

"Most of them wish not to be around members of the opponent sex in those circumstances, and I think parents should have a reasonable expectation that children have that privacy," Pilcher-Cook said.

The legislation defines a person's gender for purposes of using facilities on Kansas school and university campuses must be "determined by a person's chromosomes and is identified at birth by a person's anatomy."

In early March, South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard vetoed a similar bill. The American Civil Liberties Union and the Human Rights Campaign opposed that gender-identity legislation.

Tom Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas, said writing the measure into state law would "have serious consequences" for transgender people who already face bullying, intimidation and violence.

"Transgender kids will get injured if this bill passes," Witt said. "There is no doubt about it."

Deena Horst, a Salina Republican and member of the Kansas State Board of Education, said decisions about accommodating a transgender student ought to be handled by administrators at each school or university in consultation with students and parents.

"That's a one-size-fits-all bill. There are many things that are not black and white," Horst said. "That needs to be worked out locally. Frankly, I don't think the state or the federal government should be dictating what local districts determine to be proper. …

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