Metro Weekly

Kentucky GOP wants to bar transgender students from restrooms matching their gender identity

Bill would allow cisgender students to sue school districts if they find themselves sharing facilities with transgender students

Photo: Khrystinasnell, via Wikimedia.

A Republican lawmaker in Kentucky is seeking to bar transgender students in public schools from using restrooms that match their gender identities.

The Kentucky Student Privacy Act, sponsored by State Rep. David Hale (R-Wellington), claims that cisgender students can suffer “potential embarrassment, shame and psychological injury” if they are forced to share facilities with their transgender peers. 

The bill also states that parents have a “reasonable expectation” that their children will not view or be viewed by people of a different assigned sex at birth “in various states of undress,” alleging that requiring them to share facilities with transgender individuals violates their right to bodily privacy.

Under the bill’s provisions, a transgender or nonbinary student would first have to obtain written consent from a parent or guardian explaining that they are in the process of transitioning and are requesting a special accommodation.

In response, the school could offer the student use of a single-stall facility, a unisex bathroom, or “controlled use” of bathrooms, locker rooms or showers generally reserved for faculty. But the students would not be allowed to use a facility that does not match their assigned sex at birth.

The bill would require school officials to enforce its provisions, ensuring that transgender students are not using single-sex restrooms that align with their gender identity. If they fail to do so, any student who encounters a transgender student could take legal action against the school.

Critics, including Chris Hartman of Kentucky’s Fairness Campaign, call this the “jackpot clause” and argue that it will be abused by litigious parents and students seeking to enrich themselves at the school district’s expense.

“It’s gross, it’s disgusting, it’s dangerous and it’s deadly,” Hartman told the Louisville Courier Journal, noting that the bill would ostracize students in a way that could exacerbate feelings of depression and drive gender-nonconforming youth to contemplate suicide or self-harm.

He also adds that it could increase targeting of transgender youth by bullies, as anyone who opts for a single-stall or unisex restroom would be unintentionally outing themselves to their peers.

“At the end of the day, what that says is that ‘You are so different that the only accommodation we are willing to make is to make you use a special restroom, a different restroom,’ which once more isolates the transgender youth and makes them additionally vulnerable targets,” Hartman said. 

“So if I am the only trans kid in school and I can only use the single-stall locking bathroom on the third floor, everybody knows that that’s where I’m gonna go to go to the restroom,” he added. “And, again, it’s easy to target someone if that’s what you’re looking for.”

Kentucky’s 2020 legislative session convenes in Frankfort on Jan. 7.

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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