South Dakota governor vetoes bill requiring school restroom use to correspond with birth gender

Daugaard-compressedPIERRE, S.D. — The Republican governor of South Dakota has vetoed a bill requiring that public school students use the restroom or locker room that corresponds with their birth gender as he believes that it “openly invites federal litigation.”

As previously reported, last month, the state Senate voted 20-15 in approval of H.B. 1008, just weeks after the House advanced the bill 58-10.

“Every restroom, locker room, and shower room located in a public elementary or secondary school that is designated for student use and is accessible by multiple students at the same time shall be designated for and used only by students of the same biological sex,” the bill, authored by Rep. Fred Deutsch, R-Florence, reads.

“In addition, any public school student participating in a school sponsored activity off school premises which includes being in a state of undress in the presence of other students shall use those rooms designated for and used only by students of the same biological sex,” it adds.

The bill notes that if a student identifies as the opposite sex, and attestation is provided in writing by the student’s parent, an accommodation must be made, such as a “single-occupancy restroom, a unisex restroom, or the controlled use of a restroom, locker room, or shower room that is designated for use by faculty.”

But Gov. Dennis Dougaard vetoed the legislation on Tuesday, opining that there is not a pressing need for the law at this time. He also said that it conflicts with the Obama administration’s interpretation of civil rights law — which could result in a possible lawsuit.

“If and when these rare situations arise, I believe local school officials are best positioned to address them,” Dougaard wrote to lawmakers in explaining the veto. “Instead of encouraging local solutions, this bill broadly regulates in a manner that invites conflict and litigation, diverting energy and resources from the education of the children of this state.”

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The governor had reportedly heard from those on both sides of the issue before making his decision. Bruce “Caitlyn” Jenner and Roderick “Laverne” Cox were among those who had urged Dougaard to veto the bill.

“I’m sick, and I’m heartbroken,” Linda Schauer, South Dakota director of Concerned Women for America, told the Argus Leader. “We had hoped the governor would do the right thing.”

Deutsch says that he will not seek to override Dougaard’s veto but is considering introducing similar legislation next year.

“It’s very simple: Boys in the boys’ shower. Girls in the girls’ shower. Accommodation for students who are transgender,” he told reporters.

Deutsch believes the Obama administration has wrongly interpreted Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination based on a person’s gender. The regulation has customarily been considered to apply to female participation in sports programs.

“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance,” it reads in part.

The Department of Education had pressured a school district in Illinois last year to allow a male student who identifies as female to use the girls’ locker room due to the text in Title IX.

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