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California Schools Prepare For Transgender Rights Law

SAN FRANCISCO — With a law that spells out the rights of transgender students in grades K-12 set to take effect in California, school districts are reviewing locker room layouts, scheduling sensitivity training for coaches, assessing who will sleep where during overnight field trips and reconsidering senior portrait dress codes.

But administrators, counselors, teachers and school board members also are watching and waiting. The law, the nation's first requiring public schools to let children use sex-segregated facilities and participate in the gender-specific activities of their choice, could end up suspended within days of its Jan. 1 launch if a referendum to repeal it qualifies for the November ballot.

To obtain a public vote on the law, passed by the legislature and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, a coalition of conservative groups called Privacy for All Students has collected hundreds of thousands of signatures. Counties have until Jan. 8 to verify them through random spot-checking.

Depending on how many are found to be valid, the secretary of state will approve the referendum, determine that it failed or order a review of every signature.

"We don't know what's going to happen when kids come back from their holiday vacation," said Republican state Sen. Steve Knight, who voted against the law. "Are there going to be 15-year-old girls talking in the bathroom and in walks a boy? What are they going to do? Scream? Run out?"

The California School Boards Association is acting on the assumption that the law will stand and that, even if it does not, existing state and federal anti-discrimination laws, as well as year-old California Interscholastic Federation rules under which athletes may petition to play on a sports team that does not correspond with their biological sex, already compel schools to accommodate transgender students.

The association has advised schools to handle requests on a case-by-case basis and with parental input, if possible, but to be prepared to make private changing arrangements both for transgender students and for classmates who might object to dressing with them.

"We did strike a balance between the sensitivities associated with gender identity, not only for those students who experience a change in their gender status but the students who would be in the same facilities, in the same classrooms and on the same teams," General Counsel Keith Bray said.

Parent Christy Musser said she plans to take two of her three school age children out of public schools in Southern California.

Her oldest son will remain in the high school where he is a junior, but Musser said her eighth-grade daughter feels so uncomfortable about a transgender student coming into the restroom or locker room that she distributed flyers about the referendum at school.

"At this time in their lives, these kids are young, innocent and are just learning about themselves and their bodies, and they don't need to worry about boys coming in the locker room and looking at them, or vice versa," she said.

San Diego school board president, Kevin Beiser, said those fears are unfounded. In the absence of statewide guidance, schools have been dealing with this challenge "in a very delicate, thoughtful and compassionate manner for many years," he said.

"This idea that schools will let a student walk into whatever bathroom they want is baloney," said Beiser, who works as a high school math teacher in a neighboring district.

The possibility that the law could be overturned worries Ashton Lee, 16, a junior at Manteca High School in the San Joaquin Valley. Born a girl, Ashton told his parents and school administrators his sophomore year that he was transgender.

But he said school officials balked when he asked to be transferred from an all-girls aerobics class to a team sports class for boys. "They didn't understand the seriousness of the issue I was dealing with," he said. "They treated it like a normal thing, like I didn't like the class or was bored with the teacher."

Ashton lobbied for the law last spring and thinks his public activism helped persuade Manteca High to acknowledge his gender identity when school resumed in August. He now is allowed to use the boy's restrooms and locker rooms and to wear the junior ROTC uniform for male cadets.

Similar adjustments have been made for five transgender classmates.

The law's passage "showed them this is OK, this is going to be happening in a lot of other places," he said. "If it gets taken away, I'm kind of worried my school will be like, 'Well, we don't have to do it anymore."

California's law comes amid legal challenges across the country involving transgender students filing actions for the right to use facilities that match their expressed identities.

In June, the director of Colorado's civil rights board ruled in favor of a 6-year-old transgender girl who had been prevented from using the girl's bathroom at school. The next month, the Arcadia Unified School District in California agreed to train its staff on transgender issues to settle a complaint brought by a student prevented from staying with other boys during a school-sponsored overnight science camp.

The San Francisco Unified School District has had a policy similar to the new law since 2003. The Los Angeles Unified School District — the state's largest — has had one since 2005. This month, the school boards in Berkeley, Sacramento and Pacifica followed suit.

Namita Brown, an Oakland lawyer who represents school districts in Northern California, said educators are less concerned about installing shower screens or having enough private restroom stalls than figuring out a way "to tone the fervor in the parent community."

"The bottom line is districts are in this impossible place where our primary job is to offer quality education and we are suddenly facing some upset constituents," Brown said.

Comments

Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | December 26, 2013 at 9:37 a.m. ― 11 months ago

This is insane! I am just waiting for the first incident.

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Avatar for user 'RegularChristian'

RegularChristian | December 26, 2013 at 10:06 a.m. ― 11 months ago

Wow! How cool to think we are treating transgendered people with respect. What a great country!

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | December 26, 2013 at 10:37 a.m. ― 11 months ago

Every human is treated with respect. People do not deserve more respect or privileges than the rest of the population because they choose to think that gender is a choice instead of a genetic trait.

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Avatar for user 'muckapoo1'

muckapoo1 | December 26, 2013 at 10:45 a.m. ― 11 months ago

If they make the choice, let them also choose to pay for the adjustments they want. If they don't want that, choose to wear Depends to get through the day.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | December 26, 2013 at 11:24 a.m. ― 11 months ago

The T in LGBTQ is probably the most discriminated against out of all LGBTQ people.

While gays and lesbians still face terribl discrimination, at least there has been progress on that front.

Now we need to play catch -up for our transgendered brothers and sisters .

The best part of this law, in my opinion, is the sensitivity training being offered so kids will not grow up thinking it's OK to discriminate against or bully someone based on their gender identity .

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | December 26, 2013 at 3:11 p.m. ― 11 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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Avatar for user 'muckapoo1'

muckapoo1 | December 26, 2013 at 6:04 p.m. ― 11 months ago

The problem with things today is sensitivity related. The thin-skinned want everyone trained to deal with their individual problems. How about they deal with it and leave the other 99.999999% alone. What are we talking about?? 20-30 people out of 320 million? This is truly an insane case of the tail wagging the dog.

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Avatar for user 'garedawg'

garedawg | December 26, 2013 at 10:01 p.m. ― 11 months ago

Perhaps we could accommodate transracial persons as well. One of these days, I might decide to change my race to one of those Native American tribes whose members get $100,000 a year from their casino.

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Avatar for user 'Eddie89'

Eddie89 | December 27, 2013 at 8:50 a.m. ― 11 months ago

So happy to see California leading the nation in transgender rights. People that are concerned about some boys "abusing" the new rules really need to learn what "being" transgender actually is and how this law applies to true transgender persons.

It's not like Monday Jason will choose to call himself a girl and on Tuesday he'll be able to use the girls restrooms and lockers. That's not how this law works and that's not how being transgender works. Besides, just think of the scorn and ridicule Jason would get from his buddies for even trying something like that.

Transgender people have been with us since recorded history. And it is long past due that we should include them into the fabric of society. People that think being transgender will catch on like the latest fashion or smartphone app don't know what they're talking about.

Being transgender is a long and arduous process. Most times a lifelong process that does begin in childhood.

People should make more effort to educate themselves about transgender people: http://www.apa.org/topics/sexuality/transgender.aspx

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | December 27, 2013 at 9:25 a.m. ― 11 months ago

While my genetics say I am a white male, I feel that I identify with the Mayans more. From now on I am Mayan.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | December 27, 2013 at 8:13 p.m. ― 11 months ago

Transgender at six????

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | December 27, 2013 at 8:15 p.m. ― 11 months ago


I can't wait to see the "sexual harassment" pamphlet for the transgenders!!!

This from the man who vetoed the domestic workers' bill!!! Thank you, Left. Your anal-cranial inversion has succeeded!

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | December 27, 2013 at 8:24 p.m. ― 11 months ago

Hey, Quackster, what's "Q"? That's a new one on me.

Quackster claims homosexual men and lesbians face "terribl [six] discrimination." Outside of some hick town bakery whose owners refused to make a "same-sex" wedding cake, pray tell WHAT discrimination are gays facing today??? I work at a high school and we have gay teachers. In today's society we have gays in each and every career and profession! Even Elton on the cover of Architectural Digest! Surely, we have the American theater saturated with gays! Yes, they can EVEN marry now! WHERE IS THIS TERRIBLE discrimination???

Quackster, are you for real??? How can anyone take you seriously after such an absurd statement???

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | December 27, 2013 at 8:27 p.m. ― 11 months ago

@EDDIE says: "Transgender people have been with us since recorded history."

I didn't know the ancient Sumerians could do sex change ops! Where does it say in their tablets??? They must have been way ahead back then and Von Daniken was right after all!!! LOL

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | December 27, 2013 at 8:29 p.m. ― 11 months ago

Erratum to my erratum, I meant [sic] not "six" in response to Quackster's post.

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | December 30, 2013 at 9:12 a.m. ― 10 months, 4 weeks ago

Missionaccomplished - on this issue we see eye to eye.

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