South Dakota is first state to target high school students with anti-transgender bill

The bill, to be signed on Tuesday, would be the first in the US to specifically address transgender high school students' use of bathrooms and locker rooms


Rachael Revesz
New York
Wednesday 17 February 2016 16:28
Transgender students in South Dakota would have to choose between using the 'wrong' bathroom and one normally used by staff
Transgender students in South Dakota would have to choose between using the 'wrong' bathroom and one normally used by staff

All over the country transgender people are fighting for the right to use a public restroom of their choosing, rather than be forced to use the one that pertains to their birth gender.

Now, for the first time, transgender students will also have the same fight on their hands.

Lawmakers in South Dakota have approved a bill by 20-15 to require transgender high school students to only use girls' locker rooms and toilets if they were born female and vice versa for boys.

If passed next week, this bill would be the first in the country to specifically address transgender students.

Advocates say the bill respects students’ privacy, while critics argue the bill could lead to bullying and goes against citizens’ constitutional rights.

The bill would require schools to provide a “reasonable accommodation” for transgender students, like a single-occupancy bathroom or the “controlled use” of a restroom, locker or shower room that is normally used by staff.

Republican Senator David Omdahl has urged other legislators to support the bill to “preserve the innocence" of young people.

“I'm sorry if you're so twisted you don't know who you are,” Mr Omdahl said at a recent event when asked about the bill, as reported by CBS. “I'm telling you right now, it's about protecting the kids, and I don't even understand where our society is these days.”

Critics of the bill have argued that his comments contribute to an "epidemic of suicide" in the transgender community.

"Almost half of all transgender individuals attempt suicide at some point in our lives,” wrote Chase Strangio, a transgender American Civil Liberties Union lawyer in a letter to lawmakers.

“Growing up is painful and isolating at times no matter who you are. The last thing we need is the government to take part in the bullying of our vulnerable kids," he added.

Republican Governor Dennis Daugaard has said he will need to study the bill before making a decision.

There are 11 states currently debating anti-transgender bills in the 2016 legislative session, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

Most recently a Republican Senator in Oklahoma authored a bill to force transgender adults to use public bathrooms based on their birth gender. The same bill is being considered in Virginia and was passed by the state senate in Kentucky. It was defeated in Houston.

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