The California Senate passed a bill Wednesday evening before adjourning for the Fourth of July holiday, that will allow all K-12 students in California public schools “to participate in sex-segregated programs, activities and facilities based on their self-perception, regardless of their birth gender.”
Although California Schools did have a non-discrimination policy in place, students will now be guaranteed by law the right to choose which rest room to use, and what sports teams to join. Although nationally there are school districts that voluntarily follow a similar policy, and Massachusetts and Connecticut both have statewide policies that offer transgender student protections, California will be the first state to codify the rights of transgender students by statute.
In a heated floor debate Wednesday, opponents of the bill made the usual dire predictions of doom and gloom. Republican Senator Steve Knight, and Democratic Senator Rod Wright, both made an argument that boys who couldn’t make the boys’ varsity teams would simply go out for the girl’s teams as an alternative. But, as usual, most of the opposition seems to center around the fear that allowing students to choose what bathroom to use will lead to hormone-possessed teenage boys sneaking a peek in the girl’s bathroom, and open season for teenage sex-offenders.
Republican Jim Nielson argued on the Senate floor that:
“It is not all about discrimination. Elementary and secondary students of California _ our most impressionable, our most vulnerable _ now may be subjected to some very difficult situations. Think about the millions of California parents and students who at the least would be extraordinarily uncomfortable with what this bill would impose upon them.”
Democrat Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, addressed the opposition’s bathroom paranoia by pointing out that several major California school districts have had very similar transgender protections covering thousands of students, for a number of years.
“To date there’s been no single reported incident of any misconduct,” Senator Lara said. “Let’s not confuse silly behavior issues with sensitive gender identity issues.”
The bill’s sponsor, Senator Mark Leno, (right, ) who represents San Francisco, argued eloquently that:
“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.”
In the end, the argument that these transgender protections were needed to protect at-risk kids against bullying carried the day. The bill passed the State Senate on a 21-9 vote. The identical bill has already passed the California Assembly, so it now heads to Democratic Governor Jerry Brown’s desk for his signature .
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