When students come back to school after winter break, they may find familiar faces in unexpected places as new rules take effect for transgender students. In the meantime, grown-ups will have to work out how to implement the rules and navigate the nuances of what is, for many, very uncomfortable territory.
A California law taking effect Jan. 1 requires that public schools respect students gender identity and allow children to participate in school activities as the gender they choose. The switch in bathrooms, locker rooms and sports teams has generated the most outrage, but the laws implications extend even to pronouns.
At Monday nights Modesto City Schools meeting, parent Kathy Hardy brought up the topic, saying she would pull her children out of public school rather than subject them to girls in boys bathrooms or boys in girls locker rooms.
Thats not OK with me. And I suspect Im not alone, she said. Hardy asked to be included in discussions of how transgender students would be accommodated at Modesto schools.
Advocates for differently gendered students and parents fighting the change make the whole touchy subject a legal minefield, Stanislaus County Office of Education staff told the county Board of Education on Tuesday.
The liability issues on both sides of this are huge, said Don Gatti, deputy superintendent of the Stanislaus County Office of Education. Gatti is working with district business managers on potential costs of the law.
Vicki Bauman leads the county office team working on implementation of the law, which despite efforts to repeal it will likely stand in practice. Her research shows its mandates appear to be supported by federal law and existing state Education Code.
The kids in this bill are the most targeted group on our campuses. Regardless of how we feel about things, we have to make sure they feel safe (at school), Bauman said. But in its zeal to protect these vulnerable children, the law could be open to abuse, she added.
If boy comes to school and says Im transgender today and I need to use girls locker room, what do you do? ... There are going to be some individuals wholl want to take full advantage of this as a prank, she said.
Superintendents are reporting problems, Stanislaus County Superintendent Tom Changnon said. Weve already had some incidents in this county, he said, but gave no details.
The county office will require districts to include accommodations for transgender students in their annual school safety plans due in March. State regulations for the law have yet to be released, but Los Angeles Unified has reference materials on its website, at http://bit.ly/18Vda2H, Bauman said.
This will have an impact on us if we dont follow this to a T, she said.