Victory or Violation?
By Alex Distefano
When Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB 1266 into law in August, members of the LBGT community, including many transgender students, rejoiced at the legislation, which will allow all students in public K-12 schools to use restrooms and locker rooms based on their gender identity, rather than their expressed gender. This means that in theory boys would get to use the same restrooms and shower in the same facility as girls, and vice versa.
Transgender students and LGBT rights advocates fully support this law and see it as a victory against discrimination. The law goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2014. Although several states have laws on their books dealing with discrimination against transgender individuals, California’s bill is the first to deal with the issue in regards to public schools.
Shortly after Brown signed the law into effect, the bill had already stirred up emotional support and opposition—with many experts, pundits, politicians and spokespeople taking to the cable news networks and blogospheres, to voice their opinions on this bill.
“Now, every transgender student in California will be able to get up in the morning knowing that when they go to school as their authentic self they will have the same fair chance at success as their classmates,” wrote Executive Director of the Transgender Law Center, Masen Davis, in a letter that was published by Fox News and The Huffington Post.
But not everyone is on the same page. To no surprise, the law brings along its share of controversy, as those opposed to its implementation argue that the law could potentially violate students’ privacy, and be an overall distraction and detriment in an already near failing educational system.
Throwing himself into the arena with a vocal opposition to this bill was Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Hesperia, who wrote an editorial piece for the Conservative News Site, WND.
In his editorial, from Aug. 15, Donnelly said that the bill has made him consider pulling his two sons out of public schools. The Weekly was unable to confirm if he had in fact done so or not.
“Allowing teenage boys and girls in the same locker room, showering side by side is a bad idea,” Donnelly wrote, in his editorial. “In fact, AB 1266 is a recipe for disaster. This will take the normal hormonal battles raging inside every teenager and pour gasoline onto those simmering coals. The right to privacy enjoyed by every student will be replaced by the right to be ogled.”
Donnelly said that he discussed this law with his 13-and 16-year-old boys, and that they were “horrified at the idea of sharing a bathroom and locker room with a member of the opposite sex.”
Donnelly’s editorial suggests the law will violate the rights of many to protect the rights of a few. “While trying to address a concern of less than 2 percent of the population, California is now forcibly violating the rights of the other 98 percent, “ he stated in his article. Many of the parents I have heard from within the last few days have literally pulled their kids out of public schools and have enrolled them in home school and private school programs.”
Donnelly asks many questions that he says bring up legitimate concerns about AB 1266, which was authored by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco.
Some of the questions and issues Donnelly has addressed the possible repercussions of this measure. “Will some kids be too embarrassed to use the bathroom or locker rooms, knowing that a member of the opposite sex could enter any time? Could this create unneeded anxiety with students, creating a massive learning distraction? Will creating gender neutral facilities increase the likelihood of a sexual assault on campus?” Donnelly asks.
He said this bill for the statewide public school system frustrates him, especially considering California is competing for the bottom three spots in educational achievement. “This is nothing more than a massive distraction and will only detract from students’ education,” he wrote. “It is likely to hurt the very people it purports to help. Certainly, there is a more sensitive way to address their concerns individually as opposed to turning every other student’s life upside down.”