Foes of California's new law that requires public schools to treat students as the gender they identify as, rather than the sex they were born into, hope to take their opposition to the ballot box next year, in an attempt to repeal the law.
The bill, which is set to take effect on Jan. 1, allows students access to sex-restricted facilities like bathrooms and locker rooms based on the gender they identify with and to gender-restricted activities like sports teams.
Signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown on Aug. 12, AB 1266 has been a lightning-rod for conservatives from the beginning.
"Brown signed this measure into law despite having received thousands of letters from concerned parents urging him to veto it," Assemblyman Curt Hagman, R-Chino Hills, wrote in an opinion piece published on Aug. 16. "Many people who wrote to the governor wrote to me as well, asking the state to not impose the social values of the most liberal politicians on our classrooms. Our schools must show respect for students struggling with their gender identity, but a 'one-size-fits-all' standard is not the answer for an issue better left to local educators and parents."
A group calling itself Privacy for All Students is seeking to put the issue before the voters in November 2014.
Chino Hills entrepreneur Steve Davey spoke out against AB 1266 at a Sept. 5 Chino Valley Unified board meeting, urging board members to sign the initiative petition once it's in circulation, which is expected to happen in November.
"I'm just concerned that younger people and children don't have the wisdom and maturity (to be able to handle) the blending of bathrooms," Davey said Friday. "We just thought that this was such a bad law. It puts so many kids at risk of confusion. ... We just feel like it's a privacy issue and a law that's going to cause a lot of trouble."
Several board members spoke out in favor of the proposed ballot initiative, with board member James Na expressing his desire to sign a petition, once they became available.
"This is a very flawed law, I think," Na told those assembled Thursday night. "We do have to protect our children. ... We can't allow our children to be in that type of situation."
AB 1266 absolutely serves a real need, according to Alexis Ungerer, associate clinical social worker in Riverside who works with transgendered teens.
"I have youth who will not drink or eat anything before or at school, just so they won't have to use either bathroom," said Ungerer, a member of One Pride Alliance. "Schools make accommodations for people with special conditions all the time, so this really is no different than doing that."
Some AB 1266 opponents, including Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Hesperia, have warned teenagers will declare themselves transgendered in order to get a peek at the opposite sex in bathrooms and locker rooms or to dominate girls sports.
Ungerer scoffed at the assertion.
"You can't just claim you are -- you have to have evidence from a medical professional to justify any special treatment you get at a school," she said. "I don't see this happening at all."
In contrast, she said, she has one student she sees -- an Inland Empire transgendered student transitioning from girl to boy who is postponing participating in sports until after his operation next year.
"He doesn't even feel it's fair to compete (now) against the girls, since he's on the testosterone treatment and we all know what that does to muscles," Ungerer said.
To get their initiative on the Nov. 4, 2014 ballot, supporters of the repeal need to gather 504,760 signatures. Initiative supporters are expected to begin circulating petitions for 150 days, starting this November.
Davey is confident that the issue can make it onto California's ballot.
"I would hope that the foundations of good morals, ethics and hearts of what is right and wrong would prevail," Davey said. "I would hope that each community and each family can preserve the right to protect their children from confusion, from misunderstandings."
Ungerer is equally emphatic and said it will "absolutely not" win approval by voters.
The head of West Hollywood-based Equality California, one of the groups that originally helped craft the law, is equally skeptical about the initiative's chances.
"This is a predictable move by fringe groups that oppose all pro-equality measures and that historically have lacked the capacity to successfully execute similar efforts," executive director John O'Connor is quoted as saying in a written statement. "AB 1266 is an historic civil rights bill ensuring all students have the opportunity to participate and succeed in schools, including transgender students. EQCA and our partners will remain vigilant about monitoring the situation."
Representatives of Privacy for All Students could not be reached for comment on Friday.
"I just don't think the schools with young children is the place to do this," Davey said.
Staff writer Canan Tasci contributed to this story. ___
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