PIERRE, SD (AP) – Students in South Dakota public schools would be required to use the bathrooms and locker rooms that match their biological sex under a measure a state legislative panel approved Monday.
The House State Affairs committee sent the plan to the full chamber. If passed, it would then head to the Senate. The bill also requires schools to provide “reasonable accommodations” for transgender students’ bathroom, showering and changing needs upon request, said Republican Rep. Fred Deutsch, who is sponsoring the measure.
Accommodations in the legislation include a single-occupancy bathroom or the “controlled use” of a staff-designated restroom, locker room or shower room.
Deutsch said the plan is a response the Obama administration’s overreach in interpretation of federal anti-discrimination law related to education. He said the bill is meant to protect the privacy of students “in the most private places in our schools.”
Federal officials have said that barring students from restrooms that match their gender identity is prohibited under Title IX anti-discrimination law.
“This is obviously not an easy social issue to discuss or to try to provide solutions to,” Deutsch said. “My bill is my best attempt doing my best due diligence to provide a solution that maintains our values as a state and provides common sense.”
Libby Skarin, policy director at the American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota, said the measure could create “a messy conflict” between state and federal law that would leave schools vulnerable to legal proceedings and the potential loss of federal funds for education.
“This bill would not only place significant harm on actual transgender kids, but it would create a legal mess,” she said.
There have been two offers for pro bono legal representation in the case of litigation if the measure becomes law, said Dale Bartscher, who was lobbying for the conservative group Family Heritage Alliance.
A spokeswoman for Gov. Dennis Daugaard said in an email that he hasn’t yet taken a position on the proposal. Kelsey Pritchard said the governor will be monitoring the bill.
The South Dakota High School Activities Association has a policy allowing transgender student athletes to request playing on the team of their choice. Opposing lawmakers’ attempts to void that policy last session failed.
Deutsch said his plan has “nothing to do” with the activities association.
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