Kansas Law Creates a Bounty for Trans Students
Posted by Nigel Morton
March 29, 2016
This month, the Kansas state legislature passed two bills that pay students to openly discriminate against their trans peers. Unfortunately, Governor Brownback signed both bills into law. One of them forces institutions to pay religious student organizations for partaking in active exclusion of any group under the guise of religious liberties. The second effectively places a bounty on trans students who use the restroom that they are most comfortable in by saying that they are a threat to ‘physical privacy.’
The ironically named Student Physical Privacy Act, states that students using facilities designated for the opposite sex of their biological sex threaten the psychological and physical safety of others. This narrow definition of biological sex completely excludes intersex folks from the discussion. The language of the Act also states that public schools, including universities, need to take reasonable steps to make sure that people don’t use the ‘wrong facilities,’ or facilities designated for the opposite sex. The act never uses the word transgender because that would acknowledge that these folks exist, and validation of trans existence is the last thing the incredibly socially conservative government would want.
Steps that could be considered reasonable were not outlined. The language there is vague for a very purposeful reason. It makes a case against a trans student easier to file and doesn’t rule out sexual or physical assault. The act sets up a witch hunt-like reward system by allowing students to sue their institution if they encounter someone using the so-called wrong restroom or locker room, either at a state or federal court. The payout for such a case is a bounty of $2,500 to be paid by the school, even though schools are receiving dangerously low funding. Funding is so low that some school districts may not be able to open their doors in the fall.
One hope for getting rid of the bounty system disguised as a safety issue, is that the case could be taken up by federal courts and, through a process of appeals, has the potential to reach the Supreme Court. One would hope, since the Act is literally paying students to discriminate in public institutions, that this measure would be struck down from there. Of course, that is only a hope and the process could take years to go through.
The worst part of this legislation is not the fact that schools have to pay students who file these cases, though. It’s the fact that cases have to be filed and publicly heard in court. It’s humiliating to people who just needed to pee. The bill states that schools would have to, in addition to the bounty, pay the reporting students for any psychological harm incurred. It doesn’t even touch on how psychologically damaging and isolating the whole legal process would be for a trans student. The reason for that is obvious. Our Kansas legislature is so incredibly transphobic that they have to draft legislation that completely disregards person-hood for individuals, a pretty ironic stance for a state that tries to claim the every life has value starting at conception.
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