Beginning on January 1 a controversial new law takes effect in California's public schools.
Assembly Bill 1266 allows students in grades as young as kindergarten to use facilities consistent with his or her gender identity, irrespective of the gender listed on the pupil's record. It's intended to allow transgender young people to use the bathrooms in which they feel most comfortable.
As the new law approaches, some 30 public and charter schools in the Chico Unified School District and schools across the Northstate are preparing for the change.
One worrisome aspect of the new transgender facility law is privacy. Will the new law allow any student, at any time, to use an opposite sex bathroom?
Dave Scott, Assistant Superintendent for Educational Services with the Chico Unified School District (CUSD) said shenanigans like a student posing as transgender just to go into the other bathroom won't work.
”The student has to claim an ongoing persistent gender other than their perceived gender,” said Scott.
The issue was removed from Wednesday night's Chico School Board agenda because the district is awaiting recommendations from the School Board Association on the best way to proceed.
CUSD Superintendent Kelly Staley said she and her staff want to do all they can to make the law work smoothly.
”I think we want to respect any individual's privacy,” said Staley. “If what they need is an individual place then we need to find them a location that best fits their needs so they're not in a situation that they're uncomfortable.”
A unisex bathroom, which one person of either gender uses at a time, appears to be the simplest solution. All but one school in the district has this type of facility in its health office.
One question that remains unanswered is how many students this new law will affect. Scott said so far he knows of one student that will be impacted in a district with an enrollment of more than 13,000. But that number could change as more students learn of the new law.
According to the California Secretary of State’s Office, an effort to have the transgender law repealed does not appear to have obtained enough valid signatures to qualify a measure to repeal the law for the November 2014 ballot.