More than a dozen states sue over transgender bathrooms

If districts don't comply, they may lose federal aid
By: | August 15, 2016

Twenty-three states have sued the federal government over a directive from the U.S. justice and education departments allowing transgender students to use bathroom facilities consistent with their gender identity.

School leaders must also “provide transgender students equal access to educational programs and activities even in circumstances in which other students, parents or community members raise objections or concerns.”

If districts don’t comply, they may lose federal aid.

In July, 10 states—Arkansas, Kansas, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota and Wyoming—filed suit in federal court in Nebraska.

And Texas, Alabama, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Utah, Georgia, Maine, Kentucky, Mississippi and Arizona took similar legal action in May.

The issue stems from a controversial North Carolina law passed in March that restricts the use of restrooms at all public facilities to individuals based on their gender assigned at birth.

One of the challenges for educators trying to determine proper policy is the lack of litigation and legal precedence regarding the rights of transgender students and restrooms, says Suzanne Eckes, an attorney and former public school teacher.

Until the issue is resolved through the courts, K12 administrators can take some successful tips from districts that have successfully implemented transgender policies, says Eckes, also a professor at Indiana University’s School of Education.

Since 2014, Los Angeles USD allows transgender students to use restrooms based on the gender with which they identify. If a student wants more privacy, regardless of the reason, administrators must provide reasonable access to an alternative, such as a single-stall restroom or a facility in the nurse’s office.

Earlier this year, LAUSD opened a 15-stall gender-neutral bathroom at its Santee Education Campus in South Los Angeles, which was met with some community protest but none directly from its students.