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March 1, 2016

South Dakota bill would restrict bathroom access for transgender students

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Essential question

Why is gender an important part of a person’s identity?


A bill in South Dakota would make the state the first in the nation to legally restrict transgender students from using school bathrooms and locker rooms that do not correspond to their biological sex.

Transgender rights advocates rallied at the state capitol last week, calling the bill discriminatory and demanding Gov. Dennis Daugaard veto it. Daugaard must either sign or veto the bill by today, otherwise it will automatically become law.

Although it restricts bathroom access for transgender students hoping to use facilities that correspond to their gender identity, the bill requires that they be provided “reasonable accommodation.” Supporters of the bill say they want to protect children from being exposed to the anatomy of the opposite sex.

Although similar restrictions proposed elsewhere have prompted threats from the Department of Education to cut off funding, the main legal repercussion if the bill passes will be civil rights lawsuits filed against the state by transgender advocates.

“This is a values issue. And if we protect our children and we get sued, well, then that’s the decision we make,” said state Representative Fred Deutsch, one of the primary sponsors of the bill.


Key terms

gender identity –  a person’s inner concept of themselves as male or female or both or neither; one’s gender identity can be the same or different than the sex assigned at birth

transgender – a person who identifies with or expresses a gender identity that differs from the one which corresponds to the person’s sex at birth

veto – a constitutional right to reject a decision made by a legislative body

Warm up questions (before watching the video)
  1. What is gender identity?
  2. What does it mean to be transgender?
  3. Why do you think transgender people are discriminated against in such high numbers?
Critical thinking questions (after watching the video)
  1. Why do supporters of transgender rights want students to be able to access facilities that match their gender identity?
  2. Why do the supporters of the bill think that restricting bathroom access to people of the corresponding biological sex is important?
  3. Do you think Gov. Daugaard should sign the bill? Why or why not?
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