Politics & Government

Transgender students would have to use restrooms of their sex at birth, Kansas bills say

In this Aug. 23, 2007, photo, a sign marks the entrance to a gender neutral restroom at the University of Vermont in Burlington. In clashes over transgender students and which restrooms and locker rooms they should use, the U.S. Department of Education has warned public schools that a sex discrimination law makes it illegal to deny them access to the facilities of their choice.
In this Aug. 23, 2007, photo, a sign marks the entrance to a gender neutral restroom at the University of Vermont in Burlington. In clashes over transgender students and which restrooms and locker rooms they should use, the U.S. Department of Education has warned public schools that a sex discrimination law makes it illegal to deny them access to the facilities of their choice. AP

Bills introduced in the Kansas House and Senate would require transgender students in public schools to use restrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their sex at birth.

Titled the Student Physical Privacy Act, the proposals direct public schools and universities to designate multiperson restrooms, locker rooms and shower rooms for one gender only.

In the bills, gender is defined as being “determined by a person’s chromosomes and is identified at birth by a person’s anatomy.”

Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, a Shawnee Republican, favors the restrictions for privacy and public safety reasons, she said.

“I think any child or young adult has a right to have their privacy protected when they’re in various stages of undress,” she said.

Pilcher-Cook said it was natural for children and young adults to feel uncomfortable when they’re undressing and “someone of the opposite gender just walks in. This protects them from that situation.”

Under the bills, Senate Bill 513 and House Bill 2737, students who “for any reason desire greater privacy” may request alternative facilities at schools, such as single-stall bathrooms.

Tom Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas, said the bills would ban transgender students from using restroom facilities appropriate to their gender.

“This is isolating kids,” Witt said, “and it’s not going to end well.

“It’s outing them. It’s putting a target on their backs.”

Rep. Stephanie Clayton, an Overland Park Republican, said that such a bill introduced so late in the session is meant to distract the public from the matters at hand for the Legislature, “to get our financial house in order and to keep our schools open.

“No matter how you feel on the issue, this demonstrates a distinct lack of focus.”

The bills state that allowing students to use restrooms, locker rooms and showers reserved for students of a different sex is disruptive and creates the potential for “embarrassment, shame and psychological injury to students.”

Parents have a reasonable expectation that Kansas public schools won’t allow their minor children to be viewed in various states of undress by members of the opposite sex, and young adults have the same expectation at colleges and universities, the bill says.

Similar legislation has been proposed in Missouri.

Supporters of a transgender homecoming queen at Oak Park High School in Kansas City showed up in force and easily outnumbered protesters from the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka who gathered near the high school to spread their message of intole

Edward M. Eveld: 816-234-4442, @EEveld

  Comments