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Tennessee Legislative Assault on Transgender Public School and University Students Moves Forward

by HRC staff March 15, 2016

The Tennessee House Education Administration & Planning Subcommittee today, unanimously on a voice vote, passed HB 2414 – an outrageous bill targeting transgender students in public elementary, middle, and high schools, as well as those in public universities. The measure, which now moves to the full committee for consideration, seeks to force transgender students to use restrooms and other facilities inconsistent with their gender identity. A subcommittee hearing is also scheduled tomorrow  on companion legislation in the Senate.

Fair-minded Tennesseans; major national child welfare, medical, and education groups; the Tennessee Equality Project; and the Human Rights Campaign have been pleading with lawmakers to abandon the discriminatory measure. The proposal is even more egregious than an appalling bill vetoed recently by Republican South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has expressed concern that the discriminatory, unconstitutional measure would compromise the state’s hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding for its schools and universities. His spokesperson also said the governor “trusts our teachers and local school boards to make necessary accommodations” for transgender students.

“Governor Haslam is exactly right: this vicious legislation would needlessly jeopardize millions in federal funding for Tennessee’s schools and universities, and would strip away the ability of local administrators and teachers to do the right thing for students in their communities,” said Sarah Warbelow, HRC’s Legal Director. “There are more than 10,000 transgender students in Tennessee--and they shouldn’t have to suffer the consequences of a discriminatory law that will lead to even higher rates of harassment, bullying, and even suicide.”

As this bill is being considered by the full Education Administration and Planning Committee, here’s what you should know about is:

  • The legislation targets transgender students in public elementary, middle, and high schools, as well as those in public universities;
  • The proposal puts Tennessee public schools and universities at risk of litigation and loss of critical federal funds by forcing them into an untenable position of choosing between state and federal law;
  • The Tennessee bill is even more egregious than the appalling legislation vetoed recently by South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard;
  • Several major national child welfare, medical, and education groups have strongly condemned this type of discriminatory legislation that would further marginalize transgender students;
  • It ties the hands of school administrators and teachers who would no longer have the flexibility they need to find workable solutions in coordination with transgender students and their parents; and
  • The bill is being pushed by anti-LGBT extremists from outside Tennessee and addresses no pressing issue concerning Tennessee’s school districts or universities.

More information on the legislation can be found here.

HRC staff
HRC staff


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