This week Kansas lawmakers introduced a set of bills that critics say effectively place a bounty on the state’s transgender student population. Together known as the Student Physical Privacy Act, Senate Bill 513 and House Bill 2737 mandate that any student who witnesses a trans schoolmate heading into a bathroom that doesn’t match the gender they were assigned at birth can sue their school for $2,500.
As ThinkProgress’s Zack Ford reports, the legislation applies to both K-12 and university students. It additionally covers all facilities on school campuses — including locker rooms and showers.
Sponsors argue that the legislation is designed to protect Kansas students. “Young adults have a reasonable expectation that postsecondary educational institutions in this state will not allow their students to be viewed in various states of undress by members of the opposite sex while using student restrooms, locker rooms and showers,” the bills read.
According to the bills, encountering a trans person in the bathroom could lead to “potential embarrassment, shame, and psychological injury” for co-eds.
In an interview with The Kansas City Star, Republican state Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook said that she agrees with the legislation. “I think any child or young adult has a right to have their privacy protected when they’re in various stages of undress,” she said. According to Pilcher-Cook, having “someone of the opposite gender just [walk] in” while a student is using the restroom or locker room violates that privacy — making students feel unsafe.
But the executive director of Equality Kansas, Tom Witt, told the paper the bills will have the opposite effect, placing transgender students at risk. “This is isolating kids, and it’s not going to end well,” Witt said. “It’s putting a target on their backs.”
The bills might be among the most extreme pieces of anti-trans legislation yet introduced by state lawmakers, but they're just the latest under consideration. As the Human Rights Campaign recently reported, over 100 bills targeting LGBT people are being considered across the U.S., a great many of which are nearly identical to the Kansas proposals.
One such case is Virginia. As ThinkProgress reported in January, House Bill 663 would pass the buck to trans students themselves — fining them $50 every time they use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity.
Similar legislation is being mulled in Indiana, one with an even steeper penalty —up to $5,000. Indiana’s proposed bill, however, isn’t limited to students: According to ThinkProgress, it would cover all transgender people in the state, who could also face a year in prison if caught using the “wrong” facilities. The charge of a “single sex public facility trespass” would be filed as a Class A misdemeanor.
As Chris Paulsen, campaign manager for Freedom Indiana, told The Huffington Post, these bills are both discriminatory and difficult to enforce. “It’s lining up the potty police to stand at doors of bathrooms, which we think is just ridiculous.” Paulsen said.
Critics argue that the anti-trans legislation introduced is also unnecessary — as transgender students pose no risk to their classmates. Numerous independent research studies have found that there’s never been a single reported case of a trans person, whether a student or otherwise, attacking someone in a public restroom. In contrast, a trans student in California was allegedly beaten and sexually assaulted in a school bathroom in 2014.
Should the Kansas bills become law, the state would be the first with this kind of anti-trans measure. Bills in South Dakota and Tennessee that would restrict transgender students’ bathroom access recently failed.