LANCASTER – Local elected officials and community leaders are asking for your help in fighting a new law that allows transgender students access to school programs, activities, locker rooms and bathrooms, based on their gender identity.
“This isn’t a Republican issue, this is a parent issue,” said Sen. Steve Knight. “If you’re a parent at home and you’ve got a 15-year-old daughter, I don’t think you’re thinking about politics.”
Knight joined Board of Equalization member George Runner and dozens of school officials, parents and teachers Tuesday afternoon in launching a local effort to “protect children’s privacy” – namely by attempting to overturn Assembly Bill 1266.
AB 1266, also known as the School Success and Opportunity Act, amends a section of the Education Code to permit a student 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.” The law will go into effect Jan. 1, 2014.
The bill’s author, Assemblymember Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), says the new law is intended as a clarification of existing California law that bans discrimination against transgender students in public schools.
“We had children testify in the Assembly and Senate that this law will mean they no longer must hide who they are, nor be treated as someone other than who they are,” Ammiano said in a press release.
Los Angeles Unified School District, the state’s largest, has had such a policy in effect for nearly a decade and it has solved problems without causing new problems, according to Ammiano.
Not so, said officials at Tuesday’s press conference. They say AB 1266 threatens public school students’ privacy in restrooms, locker rooms, gym showers and even on overnight school trips.
“The two things we expect in a bathroom are privacy and comfort. We’ve just taken that away from 99.99 percent of the student population in public schools,” Knight said. “That’s not fair to our kids; it’s not fair to parents.”
“Not only is it a poor law in regards to what I think are the basic values that we have as citizens, but it’s actually a very poorly drafted piece of legislation that cannot be implemented effectively at all,” Runner said.
Fred Jarimillo, an eighth grade teacher in the Palmdale School District, said the new law was not needed because there were already measures in place to protect transgender students.
“It’s not necessary because right now if a kid doesn’t feel like he’s a boy, or she doesn’t feel like she’s a girl, she can go to the health office and use the facilities there,” Jarimillo said, adding that the new law was dangerous and needed to be repealed.
“I feel like this bill violates my right to privacy,” said Eastside High School student Holly Monte.
The group is calling on residents to support a referendum filed by the Privacy For All Students coalition to overturn AB 1266. The coalition has until November 12 to submit the signatures of about a half a million voters to qualify the referendum. If the signatures are gathered, the new law will be suspended and would appear on the November 2014 statewide ballot, where voters would have the opportunity to approve or reject the legislation.
To help qualify the referendum, visit Privacyforallstudents.com/sign-the-petition.
Opponents of AB 1266 say parents can further protect their children by submitting a “Notice of Reasonable Expectation of Privacy” to teachers and other school officials.
View the Notice of Privacy here.
Also attended Tuesday’s press conference in opposition of AB 1266 were Lancaster councilmembers Marvin Crist and Sandra Johnson, Palmdale councilmember Tom Lackey, Lancaster Mayor Emeritus Henry Hearns and several members from local school boards, including Antelope Valley High School board members Barbara Willibrand, Donita Winn and Jim Lott, Westside Union School District board member Joan Sodergren, and Lancaster School District board member Keith Giles.
For the full text of AB 1266, click here.