A new law signed by California Gov. Jerry Brown clarifies existing law that would offer protection to transgender students in California’s K-12 schools.
The Student Success and Opportunity Act (AB 1266), authored by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), is designed to give equal treatment to transgender students wanting to participate in all school related activities, programs and access to facilities.
The new law was supposed to go into effect Jan. 1, but the law remains on hold as several organizations such as the Concerned Women for America are leading efforts in gathering signatures for a referendum.
Although the law remains at a standstill, local districts have adopted their own anti-gender discrimination policies.
At the Sweetwater Union High School District, board members approved the transgender and nonconforming policy in August, four months before AB1266 was to become law.
“This policy sets out guidelines for schools and district staff to address the needs of transgender and gender nonconforming students and clarifies how state law should be implemented in situations where questions may arise about how to protect the legal rights or safety of such students,” the district’s policy states.
Among the situations the policy outlines are dress code, restroom and locker room accessibility.
In regards to bathroom use, board policy states that “Students shall have access that corresponds to their gender identity consistently asserted at school.”
The bathroom policy adds: “Any student who has a need or desire for increased privacy, regardless of the underlying reason, should be provided access to a single stall restroom, but no student should be required to use such a restroom.”
Manny Rubio, director of grants and communications for the Sweetwater District, said the board’s policy does not specify every possible gender specific scenario but it gives the district a foundation to work with.
“The policy doesn’t anticipate every situation that may occur,” he said. “But what it does is enable us to take things on a case-by-case basis.”
Rubio said currently there is an instance in the district involving a transgender student.
He said there is a student at a school in the district who is physically one gender but identifies with another.
Rubio said the school and the district have met the student’s needs.
“We’ve accommodated them in terms of their use of locker room, their use of bathrooms to the point where the student is part of the campus,” Rubio said. “It has not been an issue so far.”
The Chula Vista Elementary School District is home to 45 district schools in Chula Vista.
Anthony Millican, communications and community development for the Chula Vista Elementary District, said the K-6 district already has a procedure in place.
“Our goal is to provide a safe learning environment for our students, for all students, so our district has had a long-standing policy prohibiting gender-based discrimination and harassment,” he said.
Millican said there haven’t been any cases in the district regarding gender identity.
He said statistics show that there are very few elementary- aged students with transgender cases.
He said the district would comply with the law in dealing with a transgender student.
One of the elementary school district’s procedures states: “Students should be addressed by a name and pronoun that corresponds to their gender identity, regardless of assigned sex
Brian Clapper, governing board member of the National School District, an elementary school district in National City, said he is unaware of any policies pertaining to gender identity at the National School District, and that it would be hard to implement such policy when elementary school kids are at an age where they haven’t decided if they want to be transgender.
Ammiano said in a statement that the law was created after hearing about the mistreatment of transgender students throughout the nation.
“We heard testimony in the Legislature from transgender children who suffered because they were denied access to the appropriate programs and facilities. They couldn’t go to the restroom or participate in the PE classes that fit their gender identity. Even though California already has non-discrimination laws on the books, some school districts apparently did not understand what that meant where single-sex programs were involved. That’s why we came up with AB 1266. It’s simple and it allows flexibility for implementation because we know schools have to meet the needs of all students. But they can’t discriminate against transgender boys and girls because it interferes with their education.”