At one time in America's history, some parents did not want their children
in the bathroom with students of a different color.
---State Sen Reggie Thomas
Without providing much notice, the Senate Education Committee on Monday night revisited a bill that would require transgender students to use the bathroom that matches their biological sex or to seek special accommodations, such as a unisex bathroom.
The bill failed to get out of committee Thursday because it did not have the necessary seven votes to be sent to the full Senate.
But the panel approved Senate Bill 76 on an 8-1 vote on Monday night, minutes after Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, told reporters he didn't know whether the bill was on the committee's agenda.
Since Friday, the committee had posted its agenda for Monday as "pending." Usually, a committee will list the bills it is going to consider on its agenda so the public will know what it is doing.
The Republican-led Senate is expected to approve SB 76 and send it to the Democratic-controlled House.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said Monday night that the House "would look at it" but that he had not thought much about it.
Chris Hartman, director of the Fairness Campaign
Chris Hartman, director of the Fairness Campaign, said the Senate was "prioritizing discrimination." He called the panel's actions "ludicrous, willful, and mean-spirited" and contended the bill violated federal laws governing equal treatment of male and female students.
He said he did not know the committee would revisit the bill, which is backed by The Family Foundation of Kentucky, until "about 30 seconds before they did it. No agenda of bills was ever posted for public consideration."
Hartman noted that two members were absent from Thursday's committee meeting and three members were not present Monday, including Democrat Gerald Neal and Republican Julie Raque Adams, both of Louisville. They voted against the bill on Thursday.
Senate Education Committee chairman Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green, said he listed the committee's agenda as pending "because we had several House bills that were up in the air. We really didn't know what all would be considered."
Told that Stivers said he didn't even know whether the committee would take up SB 76 on Monday night, Wilson said, "Well, that's just one of those things. But this was not a rush job. We heard from opponents of the bill last week, and some members wanted to hear from other students."
Testifying against the bill Monday were David Kelty and his daughter Christina Kelty, a sophomore at Louisville Atherton High School.
They said some students did not feel comfortable going to the bathroom with a transgender student.
"You are putting the rights of transgender students above the rights of other students" said Christina Kelty.
That prompted Sen. Reginald Thomas, D-Lexington, to say that at one time in America's history, some parents did not want their children in the bathroom with students of a different color.
"I don't think that's the same," David Kelty responded.
The bill stems from a controversy last year at Atherton, where a transgender student who was born male identified as a female and wanted to use the girls' bathrooms and locker rooms.
A controversy arose, and the school eventually adopted a policy of letting students use bathrooms based on their gender identity. The decision was backed by the school's site-based council and a Jefferson County Public Schools appeals committee.
The sponsor of the bill, Sen. C.B. Embry Jr., R-Morgantown, said his measure allows all students to have their privacy.
Henry Brousseau, a 16-year-old transgender student at Louisville Collegiate School, and his mother, Dr. Karen Berg, testified at last week's committee meeting but not at Monday's.
Brousseau told the committee that he has identified himself as a male for three years but has been forced to use girls' bathrooms at times.
Brousseau said Monday he was "extremely disappointed" by the committee's vote.
His mother said they did not know the committee would revisit the bill Monday. "We were just told they sometimes do things like this," Berg said.
This from the H-L Editorial Board:
'Bathroom bill' is an unjust solution looking for a problem
The Senate Education Committee, unwilling to let a nasty bill die a natural death, took swift action Monday afternoon to revive legislation that recalls echoes of some of our society's worst moments.With no notice and little debate the committee passed out, 8-1, a bill to require transgender students to use restrooms and locker rooms based on their biological sex rather than their gender identity.
It was heard in that committee Thursday but failed to get the seven votes needed to advance to the whole Senate with two Republicans missing, apparently due to bad weather.
You'd think that might have been a sign some greater power wanted the Senate to take a pass on this most recent, likely unconstitutional, attempt to legislate the citizenry into what's deemed an acceptable mold.
Sadly, the message wasn't received.
Central Kentucky voters can be proud that Sen. Reginald Thomas, D-Lexington, cast the only "no" vote Monday. Thomas led the debate last week with questions and comments that made it clear the bill, if it becomes law, will stigmatize transgender students.
Although called the Kentucky Student Privacy Act, the bill requires transgender students to declare their difference by going to separate bathrooms, whether those set aside for them, unisex bathrooms or the faculty bathroom or other facilities.
Rather than protecting the students, Henry Brousseau, a 16-year-old who has identified as a male for three years, told the committee harassment was more likely "when we are forced to use the bathroom that doesn't match our gender identity."
Requiring transgender students to use separate facilities — didn't we agree long ago that separate is not equal? — Henry said was like "outing myself every time I had to go in there."
Equally troubling is that this is a solution in search of a problem, an effort to expand state government's reach where there is no apparent need. No superintendent came forward Thursday to speak in favor of the bill. Tom Aberli, principal of Atherton High School in Louisville, which adopted a policy to allow students to use the facilities of their gender identity, said there was reason to believe that, if enacted, the bill would cause more bullying rather than less.
Aberli argued that it was best to leave policy-making to local administrators and site-based councils. At Atherton the council held five meetings on the issue, conducted extensive research and collected input from students and others through a Web-based survey before adopting a policy "the overwhelming majority of our school community" supports, he said.
To people who complained the policy was similar to those adopted in many California schools, Aberli said it was a civil rights issue, not a question of one state versus another. "The value of human life is the same in Kentucky as it is anywhere else in this nation."
Or, as Henry told the panel, "That's just how I want to be treated, like a normal kid."
The full Senate should reject this bill.