Monday, May 30, 2016

Transgender cases updates

University of North Carolina is flip-flopping on HB2. Initially, UNC president, Margaret Spellings (former Secretary of Education) announced that the state's flagship university would indeed enforce HB2's bathroom and locker room rules (requiring people to use bathrooms based on the sex stated on their birth certificates). This was despite Spelling's own experience with Title IX and the lawsuits between the federal government and the state of North Carolina. Spellings's initial stance was to follow the law until courts said otherwise.

But now Spellings has said UNC will NOT be enforcing HB2 choosing the same rationale: to wait until the legal wranglings are over.  She also promised to investigate any complaints from trans students, faculty, or staff who may run into problems. No complaints thus far.

In Texas, which is also suing the Obama administration for its Title IX clarification regarding trans rights, the University Interscholastic League, the governance body which controls athletics in public schools, has put into the rules that students may only compete in sports in accordance with the sex listed on their birth certificates. The spokesperson for the organization said this has always been the practice, they just wanted to put it in writing. Equality Texas will fight the new-not-new rule.

In older news...

A potential bill barring transgender students from using bathrooms and other marked single-sex facilities according to their lived gender is drawing concern from the governor of Tennessee. The bill being considered by the legislature is similar to the one in Texas and states that "public schools shall require that a student use student restroom and locker room facilities that are assigned for use by persons of the same sex as the sex indicated on the student’s original birth certificate.” There is no mention of transgender students, but the bill is clearly aimed at these individuals.

But the governor is worried--and rightly so--that passing the law would mean the public schools would lose federal funding. As we have noted before, the Obama administration as well as the courts, have affirmed that Title IX protects transgender students and provides them the right to use bathrooms and locker rooms in their lived gender.

A nearly identical bill in South Dakota, passed the by state's legislature earlier this year, was vetoed by the governor in early March. The Republican governor (the legislature is also Republican controlled) said the bill was too sweeping and that these issues, when they arise--which he feels is rarely, are best dealt with by local officials. This is a bad approach. Yes, the law was also bad, because it conflicts with federal regulations, but leaving things to local officials is not a good idea either. It leaves trans students unprotected and opens up local school districts to lawsuits.

In response to the increase in the number of Title IX exemptions being sought by private religious colleges and universities, LBGT rights groups have put pressure on the NCAA to prevent schools who received these exemptions (which allow them to discriminate against transgender students) from being member schools. The petition which includes about 80 groups and is being lead by Campus Ally did not sway the NCAA which declined to take the recommended actions.

In a far more progressive consideration of these issues, the Albuquerque (New Mexico) Public Schools board is considering a proposal that allows transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms in keeping with their gender identity. There has been some concern from board members about children being exposed to the body parts of the "opposite sex" but these were seemingly quickly shut down by those who noted that any type of indecent exposure in these spaces is illegal and others who likened the discriminatory discourse against trans people to the rationale white people have used in the past against people of color.

The proposal also includes the following provisions:
  • The district will provide age-appropriate instruction to all students on gender-based discrimination.
  • Students will be addressed by the name and pronoun that aligns with their gender identity.
  •  Students are permitted to participate in physical education classes and intramural sports consistent with their gender identity.
  • The student and parents may request a support team meeting to ensure proper access to all programs and activities, as well as protection from gender-based discrimination.
  • Students have the right to dress in accordance with their gender identity within the constraints of the dress code.