In the United States, K-12 students face many challenging issues such as decaying schools, overcrowded classrooms, drugs, alcohol, pressure to get good grades, and peer acceptance. In South Dakota, students may be facing a far more dangerous condition if Governor Dennis Daugaard does not veto HB1008, a bill that promotes transgender discrimination in schools by requiring all students to use the restroom that corresponds with their birth gender.
I asked Anthony Eftimeo, Chair of the Los Angeles chapter of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, to give his thoughts on the bill and the detrimental effect it could have on not just transgender youth, but the entire nation.
"The anti-trans bathroom bill HB1008 that recently passed in South Dakota creates a very negative and hostile environment for transgender students. HB 1008 creates a negative and ultimately hostile school climate. A hostile school climate affects students' academic success and mental health."
Transgender students who experienced higher levels of victimization because of their gender expression were more than three times as likely to have missed school in the past month than those who experienced lower levels (58.6% vs. 18.2%). Transgender students have statistically higher levels of depression and lower levels of self-esteem. (Data from GLSEN 2013 National School Climate Survey)
The passing of Bill HB1008 sends a sad and dangerous message to trans students in South Dakota. All students deserve a safe and welcoming learning environment, and having access to the restroom that matches your gender identity is mandatory. Everyone at GLSEN Los Angeles is asking South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard to veto HB 1008."
"Requiring students to use the facility that corresponds with their birth gender regardless of their expressed gender identity harms all students. For example, a youth who presents as male, but was born female, would have to use the girls' restroom. Not only would the girls in the restroom feel uncomfortable having someone with an expressed male identity sharing that facility, it would constructively "out" the transgender male simply by him being in the girls' restroom. As a result, transgender students are at greater risk of harassment, bullying, and violence. Transgender students in these situations often refrain from using the facilities at all while at school, putting them at risk for urinary tract infections, kidney problems, and other medical issues. Transgender students tend to miss more school, have lower grades, and higher dropout rates. Far more serious is the suicide rates. Currently, 47% of trans youth have attempted suicide due to lack of support, so placing them in a hostile environment only increases that percentage."
Kathie Moehlig was recently working with families and the administration in a situation that involved a transgender youth using facilities in a California school. As a result, she had further insights on the legality of HB1008:
"Not only is HB1008 dangerous, it is illegal under federal law. Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any education program, such as a public school, that receives federal funding. The U.S. Department of Education has issued binding guidance and there are rulings from numerous federal courts that clarify that Title IX protects students from discrimination based on their gender identity, and that it is unlawful to exclude transgender students from facilities that correspond to their gender identity."
The passing of HB 1008 almost went under the radar of many equality and civil rights groups, with it passing the South Dakota Senate on February 16, 2016. This gave the bill four short days to be signed or vetoed by the governor.
I urge Governor Daugaard to consider the negative effects this bill could have on the great state of South Dakota. HB1008 is illegal under federal law and puts the already at-risk transgender youth population at even greater risk. Surely Governor Daugaard does not want bigotry and intolerance to be his legacy.