As South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard faces a decision on whether to veto HB 1008 – outrageous legislation that would prevent transgender students in public schools from using restrooms and other facilities consistent with their gender identity – seven national health, education, and child advocacy groups joined the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) in calling on Daugaard and other governors across the nation to reject the alarming and discriminatory bills being promoted in state legislatures targeting transgender children and their fundamental rights. The news comes as dozens of governors from across the country travel to Washington, DC, this weekend for the annual winter meeting of the National Governors Association.
In the open letter, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, the American School Counselor Association, the Child Welfare League of America, the National Association of School Psychologists, the National Association of Social Workers, and the National Education Association all expressed their grave concerns and objections to the flurry of bills attacking one of our nation’s most vulnerable youth populations.
“All of our nation’s children deserve equal protections and treatment in their classrooms; these anti-transgender bills foster discrimination and do harm to students, their families, and their communities,” the seven organizations state in their letter. They go on to say “[w]e stand in opposition to these shameful bills, and, on behalf of our members and communities, call on governors across the country to reject these harmful measures if they reach their desks...Every student deserves equal access to education, academic success, and a future in which they are empowered to fulfill their true potential, and these laws contravene that fundamental principle, which has long guided our nation’s education policy.”
Since state legislatures began meeting this year, nearly two dozen bills have been introduced seeking to deny transgender students access to appropriate restrooms and locker rooms, and preventing them from playing on sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity.
“The students who would be affected by these bills are among our nation’s most vulnerable youth,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “Transgender kids are already at heightened risk of experiencing violence, bullying, and harassment, and these bills exacerbate those risks by creating a hostile environment in one of the places they should feel the safest. The overwhelming condemnation by these major child advocacy organizations is clear: governors across America must reject these outrageous attacks on transgender kids.”
A survey by the HRC Foundation found that three-quarters of transgender students feel unsafe in school settings. This startling number will only rise if these bills continue to target these young people.
This type of needless and mean-spirited legislation would put school districts directly at odds with the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice, which 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.” Placing school districts at risk of losing federal funding, this legislation would also open up school districts to lawsuits and other liability for infringing on these students’ basic human rights.