A new law allows transgender students in California public schools to compete in sex-segregated sports and use restrooms and locker rooms based on their gender identity.
Gov. Jerry Brown signed the law on earlier this month, making California the only state granting these rights to transgender students. It takes effect in January.
Although the law has sparked a backlash by conservatives, the response at Rio has been subdued.
“These students are already going through an immense amount of pressure,” said senior Andrew Terra. “We should not ban them from using the restroom according to the gender they want to be identified by.”
However, some students agree with the criticism that safety may be impacted. They said they are concerned that predatory behavior may become possible because of the new policies.
While many school districts already have policies regarding transgender student rights, this bill will prompt changes for California school districts, such as San Juan, without policies.
The school districts already with policies include large metropolitan districts like L.A. Unified.
The law has garnered much attention due to recent backlash, most recently coming from assemblyman Tim Donnely, a Republican representing District 33 in Southern California. He recently decided to remove his son from the public school system in response to the passage of the bill.
The law “will put at risk the right of privacy of every other student, and will open our state to unlimited liability,” Donnely said in a statement.
Critics say that predators will take advantage of the policy to prey on people of the opposite sex in the locker rooms. Some feel male students will also take advantage of the policies to dominate girls sports teams.
Carlos Alcala a spokesperson for the bill’s sponsor Assemblyman Tom Ammaniano, a Bay Area Democrat, countered that the fears are unfounded. A boy would have to live as a girl and face the social stigma and bullying that transgender students face to take advantage of the law. That hasn’t happened in districts where the rules are already in place, he said.
The law is designed to protect students rights, Alcala said.
“There was a transgender boy in Arcadia who couldn’t use the boys bathroom or use boy’s P.E.,” he said. “Things like this prompted the bill. The girl had to drive 30 minutes home to use the bathroom, as her school wouldn’t let her use the bathroom of her gender.”
The school districts with policies have had limited issues with these concerns. Since incorporating these policies there have been few cases regarding predatory behavior or cheating due to these new policies.
Ammaniano said he hopes to increase awareness and acceptance among students by promoting equality. The law seeks to patch the holes in the existing system, while extending the rights of transgender students across the state.
Rio does not currently have identified transgendered students.
“While there is no current case that would be affected, the law will promote tolerance and acceptance if a situation with a transgender student arises,” said Athletic Director Karen Hanks.
The California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) deals with these issues on a case by case basis. As of January 1, they will be required by abide by state law and allow students to participate in correspondence with their gender identity.