California stands poised to be the first state in the nation to enact a law protecting transgender students. Here’s all you need to know and how you can ensure this important bill is signed into law.
According to the Transgender Legal Defense And Education Fund, 17 states, including Massachusetts, have policies granting some sort of legal protections for transgender people, but none of these policies are statute.
Several school districts around the country, including the Los Angeles Unified School District, have also implemented similar policies, but this would mark the first time a state has legally mandated such protections.
The bill in question is AB 1266, a K-12 transgender rights bill authored by Democratic Assemblyman Tom Ammiano of San Francisco and approved by the California Senate on July 3 by a vote of 21 – 9. It was approved by the Assembly in early May.
The proposal now awaits the signature of Governor Jerry Brown, whose office has so far declined to comment on whether he will sign it.
The state already has a law prohibiting schools from discriminating against students based on their gender identity, but this legislation spells that out in more detail.
AB 1266 alters the state’s education code so that a student is “permitted to participate in sex-segregated school programs, and activities, including athletic teams and competitions, and use facilities consistent with his or her gender identity, irrespective of the gender listed on the pupil’s records.”
Yes, we are talking about restrooms and sports teams. The bill acknowledges that transgender boys are boys, and transgender girls are girls. And if a school tries to prevent students from using facilities appropriate for their gender identity, it will be a violation of state law.
These are important specific objectives of this legislation, but it goes much further.
As Dina Martinez, Executive Director of Trans-Action, a group devoted to empowering transgender youth, explains:
“This bill is so important to galvanizing the dignity and protection of students. The mere fact that most schools across our country are able to bar someone from using the restroom that corresponds to their gender identity is absolutely unacceptable. This law will help diminish the “otherness” that most children feel and will provide trans and gender variant students with better opportunities to pursue their dreams in the future which is what all educators should be dedicated to facilitating.”
Democratic Senator Mark Leno, also from San Francisco, was emphatic:
“There should be certainty that every kid has the chance to go to school and be treated equally and fairly. We know that these particular students suffer much abuse and bullying and denigration. We can’t change that overnight, but what we can do is make sure that the rules are such that they get a fair shake.”
It was just last month that the Colorado Civil Rights Division (CCRD) agreed with the parents of a first grader that she should be allowed to use the bathroom of the gender she identifies with.
Six-year-old Coy Mathis was born a boy, but has identified as a girl since she was 18 months old.
That wasn’t good enough for Eagleside Elementary School in Fountain, Colorado. Last December the school insisted that Coy had to use the boys’ restroom, even though she had been using the girls’ bathroom until then.
The Colorado court disagreed, ruling in favor of Coy and her parents in a first of its kind legal affirmation of trans rights.
Ashton Lee, a 16-year-old transgender boy from of Manteca, California, (seen above) testified before the Senate Education Committee last month. Lee wants to play high school football.
“I just want to be treated the same as all the other boys, but my school forces me to take P.E. in a class of all girls and live as someone I’m not,” Lee said in a statement. “I can’t learn and succeed when every day in that class leaves me feeling isolated and alone.”
As a public high school teacher in California, I welcome directives to make it illegal to discriminate against transgender students.
Schools and teachers are responsible both for the academic success and also the social/emotional well-being of all our students, and this bill will ensure that all transgender students are given the opportunity to reach their full potential.
If you agree that transgender students should be treated with respect and dignity, please sign our petition asking Governor Brown to provide transgender youth with the same protections that all other students receive.
Photo Credit: NBC Los Angeles online video