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Thursday, July 25, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

No Transgender Bathrooms in S.D. Schools

PIERRE, S.D. (CN) - The South Dakota Senate on Tuesday sent to the governor for signature a law that prohibits transgender public school students from using a bathroom or locker room for the sex with which they identify.

House Bill 1008 states that sex is "determined by a person's chromosomes and identified at birth by a person's anatomy."

"Every restroom, locker room, and shower room located in a public elementary or secondary school that is designated for student use and is accessible by multiple students at the same time shall be designated for and used only by students of the same biological sex," the bill states.

Students who claim their gender is different from their biological sex must submit a written statement from their parents or guardian to a school administrator, so that a "reasonable accommodation" can be made that "does not impose undue hardship on the school district."

The reasonable accommodation cannot include access to a restroom intended for the opposite sex, the bill states. It must take the form of "a single-occupancy restroom, a unisex restroom, or the controlled use of a restroom, locker room, or shower room that is designated for use by faculty."

One sponsor, state Sen. Brock Greenfield, R-Clark, said on the Senate floor Tuesday: "Until merely months ago, we accepted that boys went to the boys' bathroom, boys went to the boys' locker room, and girls went to their respective locker rooms."

He called it "a dangerous road to go down" to allow gender to be determined by one's "feelings inside."

Greenfield said he harbors no "contempt" or "disrespect" for transgender students but sees the bill as a way to protect students' "innocence."

"Whether it be a boy or a girl, should our policies place into question anything relative to how we deal with the protection of kids and their innocence, I think we have failed the public," he said.

The bill will be the first of its type if passed, although legislatures in Washington and Virginia have considered similar laws.

The ACLU called the bill blatantly discriminatory.

"Today, South Dakota senators voted to pass a bill that targets vulnerable transgender students for discrimination," ACLU of South Dakota Executive Director Heather Smith said in a statement.

"Lawmakers heard from South Dakota parents, teachers, students, school counselors, clergy, and mental health professionals who wrote emails, and traveled to Pierre from all corners of the state to testify and demonstrate the ways in which this bill does real harm to transgender students," Smith said.

"The only people to testify in support of this harmful, discriminatory bill were lobbyists - not one South Dakota citizen testified to the necessity of this bill. And that's because it's not necessary and we don't need discrimination codified."

Opponents say the law exposes schools to lawsuits under Title IX, which the Department of Justice has interpreted to mean that "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."

House Bill 1008 says South Dakota's attorney general will defend any lawsuits and the state will bear the burden of the costs.

Last week, South Dakota's House approved HB 1112 , which states: "The sole determinant of a student's sexual identity is the sexual identity noted on the student's certificate of birth." It prohibits schools from creating "transgender policies" that allow transgender students to participate in sports consistent with their gender identity.

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