By Brendan O’Brien
(Reuters) – South Dakota would be the first U.S. state to dictate what bathrooms transgender students are allowed to use in public schools if Republican Governor Dennis Daugaard signs a bill into law.
The state Senate on Tuesday voted 20-15 to send a bill to Daugaard that requires transgender pupils to use restrooms and locker rooms in public schools that correspond to their gender at birth and not the gender that fits their current identity, legislative records showed.
“This bill is about protecting young children who are too innocent… to understand the complexity of life,” Republican Senator David Omdahl said before voting for the bill.
Staff in Daugaard’s office were not immediately available for comment. Daugaard has said that he will research the issue before deciding whether to sign the legislation, local media reported.
The bill also requires schools to provide “reasonable” accommodations for transgender students. Those accommodations include a single-occupancy restroom, a unisex restroom, or the controlled use of a restroom, locker room or shower room.
“South Dakota lawmakers are sending a message that it’s okay to segregate, humiliate, and bully transgender students,” the American Civil Liberties Union said in an online post on the organization’s website.
The passage of the bill comes two weeks after a U.S. appeals court heard arguments over whether a high school in Virginia should be ordered to allow a transgender student to use the boys’ bathroom, even though he was born a biological female.
In December, a suburban Chicago school district reached an accord with the U.S. government over locker room access for a transgender student after the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights found the district discriminated against the student.
(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Fiona Ortiz and Alan Crosby)
Photo: Republican Governor Dennis Daugaard of South Dakota listens to remarks during a “Growth and Jobs in America” discussion at the National Governors Association Winter Meeting in Washington, February 23, 2014. REUTERS/Mike Theiler