A Kentucky legislator has proposed a bill that would single out, marginalize, and humiliate transgender students who use school bathrooms — and with practically no media fanfare.
On January 9, Republican Senator C.B. Embry Jr. (below) introduced the Kentucky Student Privacy Act (SB 76), which would force transgender students in public schools to use the bathrooms that correspond with their sex assigned at birth.
Here’s the bill overview:
AN ACT relating to the physical privacy of students and declaring an emergency.
Create new sections of KRS Chapter 158 to ensure that student privacy exists in school restrooms, locker rooms, and showers; require students born male to use only those facilities designated to be used by males and students born female to use only those facilities designated to be used by females; identify consequences for using facilities designated for the opposite biological sex; identify the Act as the Kentucky Student Privacy Act; EMERGENCY.
From the bill’s full text (DOC), here’s why it’s marked EMERGENCY:
Because situations currently exist in which the privacy rights of students are violated, an emergency is declared to exist, and this Act takes effect upon its passage and approval by the Governor or upon its otherwise becoming a law.
These “situations” probably refer to the other bills popping up around the country requiring that trans people be given equal access to restrooms, employment, housing, and other fundamental human rights they are routinely denied. The bill reads that biological-sex-segregated restrooms are necessary for the “dignity, health, privacy and welfare” of students and mandates that all restrooms, locker rooms, and shower rooms will be separated by sex assigned at birth.
And here’s what school officials will have to do if presented with a transgender student:
A student who asserts to school officials that his or her gender is different from his or her biological sex and whose parent or legal guardian provides written consent to school officials shall be provided with the best available accommodation, but that accommodation shall not include the use of student restrooms, locker rooms, or shower rooms designated for use by students of the opposite biological sex while students of the opposite biological sex are present or could be present.
Acceptable accommodations may include but not be limited to access to single-stall restrooms, access to unisex bathrooms, or controlled use of faculty bathrooms, locker rooms, or shower rooms.
While accessing a restroom, locker room, or shower room designated for use by his or her biological sex, a student encountering a person of the opposite biological sex shall have a private cause of action against the school if school personnel:
- Gave the person encountered permission to use facilities of the opposite biological sex; or
- Failed to take reasonable steps to prohibit the person encountered from using facilities designated for use by the opposite biological sex.
So, a cisgender student could sue and receive monetary damages if they see a transgender student fully-clothed in the bathroom. These rules establish a toxic “separate-but-equal” standard, teaching students that there is something dirty, inappropriate, or wrong about being trans. And as we’ve discussed before, there are virtually no cases of transgender students harassing or assaulting cisgender students in bathrooms or locker rooms. None whatsoever. On the other hand, transgender students face disproportionate levels of bullying from peers and teachers, and the stigma is often rooted in policies like this one.
The Kentucky bill is not the first of its kind to be introduced, though bills that achieve the opposite purpose — ensuring transgender students’ right to use the school bathroom of their choice — have had more success. But the biggest victory in this debate came in 2013, when the Colorado Civil Rights Division ruled that a 6-year-old trans girl named Coy Mathis was allowed to use the girls’ bathroom at her elementary school. From 2013:
In a decision being hailed as a major victory by advocates for transgender Americans, the division concluded that the Fountain-Fort Carson School District created an unnecessarily hostile situation for Coy Mathis when it made the female bathroom off limits.
By not allowing Coy to use the girls’ restroom, the school “creates an environment rife with harassment,” Steven Chavez, the division director, wrote in the decision.
The school district, about 15 miles south of Colorado Springs, Colo., also showed “a lack of understanding of the complexity of transgender issues” by referring to Coy as a male or using quotes around “her” throughout the litigation, Chavez wrote.
Right now, the national civil rights momentum is swinging in favor of equality for transgender people — youth included. Kentucky is a tough place for this battle, but it’s a fight worth having. Trans youth deserve better than this.