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Anti-Equality Lawmakers in South Dakota Target Transgender Students With Deplorable Legislation

by Stephen Peters January 22, 2016

Today, HRC strongly condemned discriminatory legislation targeting transgender students that is gaining traction in South Dakota. Scheduled for a hearing on Monday in the House State Affairs committee, HB 1008 seeks to prevent transgender students in public schools from using restrooms or locker rooms that are consistent with their gender identity and requires taxpayers to assume the costly financial consequences in resulting legal challenges.

“This deplorable legislation would put state law in direct conflict with the United States Department of Education, forcing South Dakota taxpayers to foot the bill in the resulting legal challenges due to discrimination,” said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. “Transgender students are already tragically subjected to pervasive discrimination, including harassment, bullying, intimidation, and violence. South Dakota lawmakers should be working to protect these students, not attempting to marginalize them and make the widespread discrimination even worse.”

In April of 2014, the U.S. Department of Education issued guidance informing public schools that Title IX protects students against discrimination based on gender identity. The U.S. Department of Justice has unequivocally stated that, “Discrimination based on a person’s gender identity, a person’s transgender status, or a person’s nonconformity to sex stereotypes constitutes discrimination based on sex. As such, prohibiting a student from accessing the restrooms that match his [or her] gender identity is prohibited sex discrimination under Title IX.”

HB 1008 would put South Dakota school districts at risk of losing federal funds under Title IX, forcing them into an untenable position of choosing between state and federal law. It would also tie 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.

The legislation would only exacerbate the discrimination and harassment that transgender students already face. Based on findings from HRC’s groundbreaking survey of over 10,000 LGBT-identified youth, the HRC Foundation, in partnership with Gender Spectrum, released a report in 2014 on gender-expansive youth – or young respondents who identified as transgender or chose “other.” Findings revealed the heartbreaking reality that gender-expansive youth take the brunt of exclusion and verbal harassment both inside and outside of school compared to their peers. For example, 40 percent of gender-expansive youth reported being excluded “frequently or often” by their peers. Nearly the same number of gender-expansive youth reported “frequently or often” being verbally harassed and called names at school, and 42 percent reported being called anti-gay slurs.

The outrageous legislation in South Dakota is part of an onslaught of anti-LGBT bills being pushed in 2016 by anti-equality activists around the country. Earlier this month, HRC released new analysis previewing the state and local legislative battles in the year ahead. To date, HRC is tracking over 100 anti-LGBT bills in 26 states. These range from legislation attempting to undermine marriage equality; proposals aimed to authorize individuals, businesses, and taxpayer-funded agencies to cite religion as a legal reason to refuse goods or services to LGBT people; bills seeking to restrict or criminalize transgender people who use restrooms or locker rooms consistent with their gender identity; and even legislation aimed at eliminating the ability of local governments to protect LGBT residents and visitors. For more information, visit:

Working to stop such reckless and discriminatory legislation, HRC is proud to be fighting alongside local advocates at the ACLU of South Dakota to ensure LGBT residents and visitors across the Mount Rushmore State are treated with dignity and respect.

Stephen Peters
Stephen Peters


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