What the Anti-Trans Bathroom Bill Would Mean for Kansas Students
Posted by Nigel Morton
April 19, 2016
Unfortunately, the Kansas Legislature is still considering HB2737 as a way to legalize transphobia. HB 2737, the 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. In the language it also states that public schools, including universities, need to take reasonable steps to make sure that people of the opposite sex don’t use the ‘wrong facilities,’ or face a lawsuit.
These “Reasonable Steps” that schools should be taking were not outlined. Putting this so vaguely makes a case against a transgender student easier to file and leaves the possibility of means of finding out such as physical or sexual assault excusable. The school would have to pay $2,500 plus lawyer fees and any other monetary relief to be determined by the court.
Wichita State Student Body President, Joseph Shepard weighs in, “I think that the Universities are going to be extremely hit by this because you know as we look at the bill we see that they are going to be penalized financially for every time this situation occurs but also the judge can deem any other fees reasonable and make the universities pay for that as well.”
Due to budget cuts, schools are already receiving dangerously low funding levels and run the risk of not being able to afford such lawsuits. Some school districts are considering measures such as four day weeks, and the legislature indicated that it doesn’t intend to remedy the budget issue by stating that they would adjourn before the Supreme Court came to a decision on school funding.
Shepard believes that universities throughout the state will struggle financially due to budget cuts and related lawsuits stating that transgender students are going to stick it to the system and use the restrooms that they are comfortable in.
“When we look at how this will affect us financially it’s drastically because there are going to be those students who say ‘you know what? You’re not going to force to identify someway that I don’t identify. You’re not going to force me to be someone who I don’t want to be’ and I think that they have that right and I think that they should stand their ground and I think that they should stand up for what they believe in and who they believe they are.”
Taben Azad, WSU incoming Student Body Vice-President, says, “It’s definitely going to hurt. We know earlier last month [WSU] President Bardo issued a statement that all spending needs to stop.”
Even though the title of the HB 2737 makes it seem that the core of this legislation is concerned about the physical and psychological safety of students, the very nature of it jeopardizes the physical safety and psychological health of transgender students. This bill basically legalizes overt transphobia and backwards open discrimination by establishing a witch hunt legal process.
Azad was concerned about the stigma that this HB 2737 will bring.
“I think it promotes more prejudice and discrimination on our campus which goes against our own policies in SGA and the University policies as a whole so I don’t think that it should be something we allow in our University.”
President Shepard recognized that this recent struggle over who can use which bathroom is representative of a long fought battle for equal treatment by the LGBTQ community.
“When we look at the communities that are marked underrepresented, that are picked on, that are bullied, that never have a voice at the table it’s the LGBTQ community. And I think that people need to quit leaving them out and I think that this bill is only going to make matters worse.”
Thankfully struggles like this keep activists motivated to make positive lasting changes.
Shepard says, “I wouldn’t be surprised if the LGBTQ community came together and said ‘you know what. Enough is enough. Yes, this is Kansas. Yes, we’re a red state that doesn’t mean that you’re going to control what we do and who we are as individuals.’”
Photo by Eric Richardson from Los Angeles (Flickr) via Wikimedia Commons