Anatomy Wins in Kentucky High School Restroom Legislation

State Sen. C.B. Embry, Jr. (R-Ky.) said he does not have anything against transgendered people — those who feel they were given the wrong gender at birth and dress in the gender they prefer — but he sure would not want one of his daughters to meet a girl who is really a boy in a high school bathroom.

“This isn’t anything, in my opinion, against those people,” he said. “They have the right to dress and present themselves in any way they wish. (But) if my daughters were in high school, I wouldn’t be greatly thrilled if they allowed boys to use the restroom with them just because they dress a certain way.”

Embry told the Courier-Journal he introduced the Kentucky Student Privacy Act on behalf of the Family Foundation of Kentucky because a male student, who wants to be female, was allowed to use the girls’ restroom in a Louisville, Ky., high school.

Embry’s proposal, Senate Bill 76, would require every school locker room, shower facility and restroom used by more than one student to be designated as “male only” or “female only.” Transgendered students would not be allowed to cross over to the gender of their choice.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the New York public school system has a different policy. According to the New York City Department of Education website: “Transgendered students should not be required to use a locker room or restroom that conflicts with their gender identity,” unless they want to use a more private facility.

And it does not come as a shock that those who are conflicted about their gender have serious problems in school.

A transgendered student — in this case a teenager who was born a girl but has taken on the identity of a boy — is having trouble in his high school in Columbus, Kansas.

In addition to problems dealing with other students, Damien Greenlee told KOAM-TV there isn’t a bathroom that he feels comfortable using in his school.

"The bathroom that I'm going to now is a storage unit,” he said. "There is a bathroom in the alternative learning center, which is a block a way from the school, and then there is a bathroom in the agriculture building, which is completely across the school from all of my classes.”

When Damien has used one of the bathrooms outside the school, he often is late to class because of the distance.

However, the problems faced by transgendered teens are often more than just the embarrassment over choosing a public restroom.

The December 2014 suicide of a Cincinnati, Ohio, high school student put the agony of transgendered high school students in a national spotlight.

"The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren't treated the way I was, they're treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights," Leelah Alcorn, born Josh Alcorn, wrote in a post that appeared on the social media site Tumblr the day after she died.

“My death needs to mean something.”

Embry has consistently maintained his legislation is not about impinging on the rights of the transgendered. He wants to protect the rights of the non-transgendered and their parents.

Senate Bill 76 maintains that school personnel have “a duty to protect the dignity, health, welfare and private rights of students.”

The legislation also points out children and young adults “have natural and normal concerns about privacy while in various states of undress, and most wish for members of the opposition biological sex to not be present when they are undressed.”

Embry’s proposal also makes the case that parents of public school children have a right to expect their children will be protected from situations that could “create potential embarrassment, shame and psychological injury.”

Under the Kentucky Student Privacy Act, a transgendered student, or one who “asserts to school officials that his or her gender is different from his or her biological sex — as determined by chromosomes and his or her anatomy — would be provided with the best, available accommodation.”

But under no circumstance would that mean the transgendered student would be allowed to cross over into facilities that don’t match his or her biological sex while straight students are present.

If the Kentucky Student Privacy Act was violated, the school where the offense occurred would have to pay the price: $2,500, which would cover damages from “psychological, emotional and physical harm” suffered by a non-transgendered student who encounters a transgendered student using the wrong bathroom, shower room or locker room.

Chris Hartman, director of the Kentucky Fairness Campaign, told the Bowling Green Daily News Embry’s legislation is “a solution in search of a problem” and he believes the Kentucky General Assembly has bigger problems that need to be dealt with in its 2015 session.

“It’s sort of a fruitless effort to give him an opportunity to soapbox on something,” Hartman said. “We don’t see any reason to further mandate micromanage decisions being quite capably handled by each school.”

Some Kentucky school officials have said Embry’s legislation would be difficult to implement and are unhappy with the provision specifying $2,500 in damages.

Embry told the Washington Post he might change the bill to discourage students from “staging incidents to win money.”