Legislature

Trump, Transgenderism and South Dakota

The Trump Administration’s reversal of the Obama mandate to allow transgender students use public school bathrooms, changing rooms and shower rooms of their choice has again focused attention on a very tough social issue.

Yesterday, a Facebook friend posted:

I am deeply saddened by the measures #45 took yesterday that affects transgender students and their safety. Please understand the facts. This was not something he did yesterday so you as a grown up don’t have to pee next to a transgendered person while you are shopping at Target.

What he did yesterday affects children. This is about transgendered youth at schools. Did you know that transgender students are already quite vulnerable to bullying and discrimination in schools?  you know that transgender students have a higher suicide rate?

This grieves me deeply. We should be protecting our transgendered youth. This should be about protecting students, providing a safe environment where they can receive an education. This is a human rights issue.

To any LGBT youth out there, I am sorry that our President has done this. But please know you are not alone. There are millions of people that will take a stand and fight for your rights so you can go to school in a peaceful and safe environment. You are worth it.

With condolences to my friend, I’m not saddened by what Trump did.  Frankly, all he did was return things to the way they have always been in our country before Obama inappropriately injected the federal government into a state and local issue.

It’s now once again a state’s decision.  South Dakota, if it chooses, can now create a state law to control the use of school facilities, or it can allow individual school boards to make the decision.  Other states can likewise each make their own determination.

That said, what saddens me is we seemingly can’t have an adult conversation about what’s best for our children.

Last year, when I introduced HB 1008 to restrict access to public school showers, changing and restrooms to students of the corresponding biological sex, I included the requirement that schools must make “reasonable accommodations” for students of the opposite biologic sex.  These reasonable accommodations included “a single-occupancy restroom, a unisex restroom, or the controlled use of a restroom, locker room, or shower room that is designated for use by faculty.”

I including this requirement after talking with teachers, school counselors, psychiatrists that treat gender dysphoria patients, transgender adults, transgender students and their parents.  I thought it was a middle-of-the-road approach that protected the privacy of transgender children and all other children that didn’t want to be seen while partially or fully naked or see others in the same degree of undress.

Unfortunately, the transgender lobby testified that wasn’t good enough. Their position was no compromise was possible.

Some believe allowing transgender children the right to use public school showers, changing rooms and bathrooms, is a human rights issue; and therefore should be a constitutionally protected right.  Humbly, I disagree.  This is a states’ rights issue, and it is a personal body privacy issue.

Now that the federal government is out of the equation, how do we, or even should we, move forward to protect the privacy of all children?

Appparently, for the time being, the pressure is off from the federal government. However, given the social reactions we’ve seen over this issue, I believe a strategy of both local and state control to protect student bodily privacy is helpful.

If I were to author another bill, it would leave bathroom policy up to local school boards. This has always been the least of my concerns since bathroom stool partitions offer varying degrees of privacy. In my opinion, it is reasonable to allow local control over bathroom usage.

School showers and changing rooms are a different story. They offer little to no privacy. It makes sense that South Dakota establish a uniform privacy policy for all public school showers and changing rooms.  To do otherwise would leave a patchwork of school districts with different shower and changing room privacy policy.

Last, I believe we must do more to protect children struggling with their gender from bullying, threats, and intimidation.  As citizens concerned about problems facing all children, including transgender children, we should be committed to protect them, and to seek solutions for ways to help them lead meaningful, dignified lives.

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