Proponents speak out in favor of sex-desegregated schools as governor signs co-ed bathroom bill

A referendum was filed in August to overturn AB 1266 that was recently signed into law by Governor Brown. The controversial legislation has come to be called “the co-ed bathroom bill” because of its provision that allows children in grades K-12 to choose whatever bathroom or locker room they feel matches their sexual identity.

Proponents for the bill say the new law is to allow all students, including transgender, to feel safe in school. They hope the bill is not overturned.

“Reducing this bill to the bathroom issue alone is another way to polarize the conversation. At the end of the day it’s just to help all our children, not just transgender,” said Max Disposti, executive director of the North County LGBTQ Resource Center.

Disposti said that studies have shown transgender students can start identifying themselves as early as 7- or 8-years-old.

“This is for all children. We shouldn’t force kids to identify with one sex or another,” said Disposti. “California should be proud to have this law passed.”

AB 1266 forces schools to allow students to participate in sex-segregated school programs, sports activities, and to be allowed access to the bathroom and locker room of the student’s choice consistent with his or her opinion of their gender. The law is the first of its kind in the country.

California law allows the public to vote out objectionable measures passed by the legislature and signed by the governor, but the proponents of a referendum are required to gather more than 500,000 signatures within 90 days from the signature of the governor.

The bill will take effect Jan. 1, 2014.

“As of now, we haven’t had any discussions or planning [regarding the bill],” said Melanie Norton, Communications & Community Relations Coordinator for Temecula Valley Unified School District.

Ben Cartwright an activist with San Diego Democrats for Equality said, “This bill tells kids it is ok to be a transgender. Students can feel better knowing their school and state is behind them.”

According to Jim Evans, a spokesman for Governor Brown, “All students should have the opportunity to fully participate and succeed in school.”

The school district will await direction from Riverside County Office of Education. They will help school districts with guidelines on how this bill will be implemented.

Although the school district has received concerned calls from parents asking if there are going to be any changes, as of right now, there will be no changes.

“Current law dealt with this sensitive issue on a case by case basis,” said Karen England, Executive Director of Capitol Resource Institute. “This law takes away students’ privacy rights, puts our children at risk, and limits the authority of local school districts. AB 1266 does not require proof for students who claim to have gender identity issues so the school administrators will have to take the child on his or her word when they want to use the facilities of the opposite sex. The law does not provide safety measures to prevent abuses of this policy – districts’ will have lawsuits coming from both sides because schools have no authority to fully protect the majority of students.”

Disposti said he is not aware of any cases where a transgender used the bathroom and assaulted someone of the opposite sex. It is actually the opposite. It is the transgender who is at risk to be bullied when using the bathroom of a gender they don’t identify with.

“Schools can designate a bathroom as gender neutral,” said Disposti as one way to ease parents’ concerns of having a member of the opposite sex in their child’s restroom.

Cartwright said he isn’t against gender-neutral bathrooms, but he is against prohibiting the transgender from using the bathroom of the gender they identify with.

“People who are against this law are afraid of the unknown,” said Cartwright. “I don’t have sympathy for those concerns anymore. We need full equality.”

Bevi Edlund contributed to this story.

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