By Lancaster resident Mario Vasquez, a SOAR High School alumnus attending San Francisco State University. Vasquez is also Vice President on the Board of Directors for the Gay-Straight Alliance Network, a national organization that endorsed AB 1266 and advocated for it in Sacramento.
Numerous letters to the editor have expressed commonly held misconceptions about the School Success and Opportunity Act, or AB1266. Over the past 18 months, I have worked as a youth leader for the Gay- Straight Alliance Network in concert with California legislators to see this bill become law, and I think it’s time to clarify AB1266 for readers.
The law does not mean that boys will be able to go in the girl’s bathroom or locker rooms and vice versa. It does mean that girls and boys who are transgender will be able to use the facility that pertains to their gender identity, and that they will not be stigmatized or relegated to using a health office or staff bathroom.
This law does not allow a student to constantly switch between use of boys’ and girls’ bathrooms or locker rooms based on how they feel that day. That is certainly not the experience of the many trans students who have spoken publicly about their school experiences. In fact, students who are transgender show a repeated and persistent desire to express as other than their natal gender.
There has always been an expectation of personal safety and privacy for students in school restrooms and locker rooms. All students worry about their safety to varying degrees, and this is particularly heightened for transgender youth who face disproportionate levels of assault, harassment, and rejection from family members.
During public testimony in Sacramento, this law received support from a wide range of parents, students, legislators, and organizations. Most importantly, the California Interscholastic Federation, which oversees school sports throughout the state, endorsed AB1266. Under this law, students who are transgender will be able to play on the sports team with which they identify. Participation in sports is an important part of the high school experience, and AB1266 gives trans youth access to such opportunities.
My alma mater, SOAR High School, implemented trans-inclusive policies several years ago and has welcomed a diverse student body, which includes transgender and gender non-conforming students who have been academically successful. As a survivor of horrendous middle school bullying, which was often witnessed, but ignored by teachers, I believe that we do need state policies, which protect every student’s right to an education.
This law gives my transgender and gender non-conforming friends the opportunity to succeed and fully participate, as I did at SOAR. School should not make it harder for students to succeed. I also don’t understand why many have such paranoia. When I use a restroom or locker room, I do what I need to do and do not concern myself with other people’s bodies.
The School Success and Opportunity Act, which goes into effect January 1st of 2014, clarifies present law which requires all students to be permitted to participate fully in school. The School Success and Opportunities Act allows students to participate in sex-segregated activities, teams, and facilities consistent with the students gender identity, regardless of the gender listed on the students records. This applies to grades k-12 and would ensure trans students are protected and have the same opportunities as others. This law is important because schools will understand their responsibility for the success and well-being of all students.
In fact, Los Angeles Unified and San Francisco School Districts, the two largest in the state, as well as several smaller districts, have already successfully implemented these trans-inclusive policies. No school site has reported a disruption in learning time or complaints from students.
It is import to remember that every school has anti-harassment policies and those will still be enforced. Harassment is harassment, regardless of what bathroom or locker room you’re in. The School Success and Opportunity Act brings us one step closer to equal access to education for all students.
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