South Dakota bill would restrict transgender students’ access to restrooms

UPDATED 3:14 p.m. EST Feb. 18 | South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard announced Wednesday that he would meet with transgender students and LGBT activists from the Center for Equality before making a decision to sign into law a bill that would restrict transgender students’ access to restrooms in public school. The bill was passed by the state Senate Tuesday.

The meeting could happen as early as Thursday, according to a Daugaard spokeswoman.

Daugaard said last week that he had never met a person he knew to be transgender, and argued that such a meeting would not be necessary before approving or vetoing the bill. Under South Dakota law, the governor has until March 1 to make a decision on the legislation.

The South Dakota state Senate is also currently considering two other LGBT-related bills passed by the state House of Representatives last week. One would require that student athletes only join sports teams designated for their gender at birth, while the other would prevent the state from prosecuting taxpayer funded entities that discriminate against LGBT people for religious reasons.

ORIGINAL STORY, 4:15 p.m. EST Feb. 17 | South Dakota would become the first state to restrict transgender students’ access to restrooms in public schools if the governor approves a bill passed by the state Senate Tuesday.

The bill would require transgender students in public schools to only use public restrooms and locker rooms that correspond to their sex at birth. Schools would also have to provide “reasonable accommodation” for transgender students, such as single-person restrooms or “controlled use” of staff restrooms.

The Senate voted 20-15 to send the bill to Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard, who previously expressed support for it. Daugaard said last week that he would study the new legislation in detail before making a decision. Advocates say the law is meant to ensure the privacy of students and “preserve the innocence of our young people.”

Opponents such as the American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota and the Human Rights Campaign have called on Daugaard to veto the bill, claiming it discriminates against vulnerable adolescents and may lead to bullying. “History has never looked kindly upon those who attack the basic civil rights of their fellow Americans, and history will not treat kindly those who support this discriminatory measure,” Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin said in a statement.

Some have also questioned the legislation’s legality: federal officials have said that banning students from restrooms that match their gender identity is prohibited under the Title IX anti-discrimination law.

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