California Jumps Ahead Of the Pack On LGBT Rights in Schools
Without missing a beat, California has taken another stride in the direction of LGBT rights, not just for adults, but within public education. The Golden State is poised to become the first U.S. state to require schools to let kids choose bathrooms and sports teams based on their gender identity, marking some of the strongest protections for transgender youth in the country, surpassed only by some policies in Massachusetts.
As a home-grown Californian, this could not be more exciting news. Not only does this open the doors to more accessible activity for transgender youth in education (as opposed to feeling shut out of their school for their sexuality), but this also plants the seeds for integrating sexuality across the spectrum into youth culture so that it is no longer a taboo lifestyle but simply a part of everyday life. This assimilation into education is what will shape the next generation into a more understanding and unified group, setting the stage for future policymaking and community development.
The Associated Press noted that California had already had legal protections for transgender students, but the new bill, AB1266, makes these rules much more explicit, marking the first time a state has mandated such equal treatment by statute. The bill allows for children K-12 "to participate in sex-segregated programs, activities, and facilities” based on their self-perception rather than their birth gender. The San Francisco Democrat Tom Ammiano who sponsored the bill stated that these clearer rules would provide more protections from those who still face massive bullying issues and confrontations.
After a lengthy debate with much objection, the bill was passed 21-9 in the California State Senate. Some objections included concerns that the new rules would allow mediocre male athletes to join female sports teams for competitive advantage. However, once passed, education departments in Massachusetts and in school districts across the country have followed the lead of California and have begun to debate and even adopt similar policy.
The main issue similar bills may face in the future would likely be with the current environment already established in schools. After all, many students may feel discomfort with the new rules and feel that their rights to privacy have been violated.
Nonetheless, "There should be certainty that every kid has the chance to go to school and be treated equally and fairly," said Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), who carried the bill in the Senate. "We know that these particular students suffer much abuse and bullying and denigration. We can't change that overnight, but what we can do is make sure that the rules are such that they get a fair shake."
Ultimately, these sensitive gender issues have seen some immense and positive growth in the last few weeks. Hopefully they will continue their expansion into youth education to create a safer and more supportive environment for all children involved, whether they be gay, straight, or otherwise.