UPDATE: 11:23 p.m. – It’s a question that, at this point, has no right answer.
Should schools treat their students consistent with their gender identity or the gender written on their birth certificates?
And as lawmakers continue the difficult task of answering that question, 11 states have come together and are suing the president and his administration.
Most of the states are from our nation’s south, including Texas, Alabama, and Oklahoma.
The lawsuit comes just 12 days after the U.S. Department of Education released federal guidelines that include rules, stating that students are not to be discriminated against and that students should be treated consistent with gender identity.
The 11 states are accusing President Obama of “running rough-shod over common-sense policies that protect children.”
And even though Michigan isn’t among the states taking action against the Obama Administration on this issue, State Senator Tom Casperson introduced a bill Wednesday, which would prohibit transgender students from using the restroom that fits with their gender identity.
The Federal Government said the determining factor of a person’s gender status, comes from the child’s anatomical sex, not gender identity; and policies like abiding by birth certificate gender status are not acceptable.
Should it align with gender identity or born identity? And should federal law have the final say?
The squabble over which stall a transgender person should use continues Wednesday night and in Michigan, after State Senator Tom Casperson introduced a bill that would stop transgender students from using student bathrooms, locker rooms, or showers with students who don’t match their biological sex and only make accommodations if the parents of the transgender student, sign off on it.
“We need good roads, we need sturdy bridges, we need well-funded schools, we don’t need potty police,” Sam Inglot said.
Inglot is the communications specialist for Progress Michigan; he said lawmakers should focus on the real issues in Michigan, not putting policy on one that doesn’t currently exist.
“What Senator Casperson is proposing really only stokes more fear, more ignorance, and more discrimination of the transgender community,” Inglot said. “And we have to remember, we’re talking about transgender kids here, I mean these are students.”
Many schools in the area agree that it all boils down to students feeling safe. Among them are schools in Lansing.
The district released this statement, telling students they can use whatever bathroom with which they identify.
“It is our goal to help all students feel safe, secure, and welcome in the Lansing School District. Students are allowed to use bathrooms that they identify with. Principals work with all students to ensure that everyone feels comfortable in Lansing schools.”
Michigan State University echoes the statement and even made changes to housing and bathrooms to stand by it.
“What Senator Casperson is proposing actually doesn’t make schools safer for anybody. It puts already the most vulnerable kids at even greater risks for bullying, harassment, and violence by singling them out,” Amy Hunter said.
Hunter is a transgender woman, and the ACLU’s Transgender Advocacy Project Coordinator.
She said it’s all about getting everyone on the same page about who transgender people are, not shutting the door on their identity.
“We need to keep educating folks about what it means to be transgender and help them understand what having a gender identity that is different from the sex that you were assigned at birth is all about,” Hunter said. “Good education brings folks back around to understand that we’re all human and have a common interest.”
Senator Casperson could not be reached for comment today, however back in March, when he first announced that he had plans to introduce this legislation, he said: “In the pursuit of social justice, this so-called draft guidance document creates numerous problems from the elimination of parental authority and notification, to threatening student safety and beyond. My bill would stop this policy dead in its tracks.”
Stay with 6 News for updates on this continuing story.
A Michigan state senator has proposed a “bathroom bill” similar to those in other states, drawing fire from groups opposed to such a move.
Senate Bill 993, written by Senator Tom Casperson (R-Escanaba), requires schools to make a “reasonable accommodation” to a student who identifies their gender as different from their “biological sex”.
But the bill says the accommodation may not include “the use of a pupil restroom, locker room, or shower room designated for use by pupils of the opposite biological sex if pupils of the opposite biological sex are present or could be present.”
The bill says schools and school districts can set up a “single -ccupancy restroom, unisex restroom, controlled use of a restroom, locker room, or shower room that is designated for use by faculty.”
Similar bill have sparked protests in other states, most notably in North Carolina.
Progress Michigan, in a press release, decried the bill as a “gender discrimination bill that stokes fear of the transgender community and will open the door for more bullying and harassment of an already marginalized group of students.”
This bill is wrong,” said executive director Lonnie Scott in the same release. “The last thing we need is Michigan Republicans like Tom Casperson policing student bathrooms and locker rooms and putting Michigan back in the national spotlight for again refusing to protect marginalized people in our state. Transgender students — like all students — deserve respect and equal treatment, they don’t need conservatives like Tom Casperson telling them how, when and where to use public facilities.”
Equality Michigan, a group that represents the interests of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered communities, launched a petition drive to stop the bill.
“Senator Casperson and the other members of the legislature need to hear a loud and clear message from you: This is not who we are” the group said in a release.
Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof told the Associated Press that the legislation is not a priority for the Senate. It’s been assigned to a committee.
6 News reporter Alexandra Ilitch is working all sides of this story and will have more tonight on 6 News at 11.