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24 May, 2024
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California takes bold step towards gender-neutral school bathrooms

The state's governor Gavin Newsom breaks barriers, championing inclusivity and challenging stereotypes in education

Source: CNN

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed a law requiring K-12 schools to provide gender-neutral bathrooms by July 2026.

The new law, Senate Bill 760, was among a series of laws signed by Newsom Saturday to expand protections for the state’s LGBTQ community.

“California is proud to have some of the most robust laws in the nation when it comes to protecting and supporting our LGBTQ+ community,” Newsom said in a statement.

Under the law, “each school district, county office of education, and charter school” would be required to have at least one gender-neutral bathroom on campus on or before July 1, 2026. The bathroom must be available for use during school hours and during school functions when students are present, the law states.

The law allows for the temporary closure of any gender-neutral bathroom only if there is a documented student safety concern, an immediate threat to student safety, or for the bathroom to be repaired.

The law also requires the gender-neutral bathroom to have signage identifying the space as being open to all genders and be unlocked and accessible to all students. It requires schools to designate a staff member to serve as a point of contact to ensure the bathroom is compliant with state law.

State Sen. Josh Newman, who sponsored the law, applauded the governor’s action, telling CNN it was “only fair that everybody has access to a restroom without fear of outing, bullying, or stigmatization.”

Newman said he hopes the law becomes a model for other states to help protect children.

Tony Hoang, executive director of the LGBTQ civil rights group Equality California, said the governor’s action sends a “clear message” that California will protect the rights of the LGBTQ community.

“Hate-filled attacks will not be tolerated and we will continue protecting and ensuring the safety of all members of the LGBTQ+ community,” Hoang said.

In recent years, school districts across the country have debated LGBTQ inclusion and representation, including whether to allow classroom instruction on gender identity, CNN previously reported.

The issue of bathroom access has been the focus of national debate for years. In 2016, North Carolina enacted a law that required people using public bathrooms and locker rooms to use rooms that corresponded to the gender on their birth certificates, if the rooms in question were multiple-occupancy. The measure drew intense criticism from businesses and advocates and it was later repealed.

At the time, former President Barack Obama’s administration issued guidance directing schools to let transgender students use facilities that correspond with their gender identity. Those protections were later withdrawn by the Trump administration in 2017.

Newsom signed the series of new protections for LGBTQ Californians into law a day after he vetoed a bill that would have required state judges to consider whether a parent affirms their child’s gender identity when granting custody and visitation.

In a statement explaining the veto, the governor noted that California’s courts are already required to consider a child’s health, safety and welfare, “including the parent’s affirmation of the child’s gender identity.”

He also urged caution “when the Executive and Legislative branches of state government attempt to dictate - in prescriptive terms that single out one characteristic - legal standards for the Judicial branch to apply.”

“Other-minded elected officials, in California and other states, could very well use this strategy to diminish the civil rights of vulnerable communities,” he wrote.

Several other states have issued policies relating to LGBTQ students and bathroom access. Earlier this year, a law went into effect in Idaho that prohibits transgender students from using public school bathrooms that do not align with their gender assigned at birth. Last month, a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order, blocking enforcement of the law.

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