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Local students to protest against transgender bathroom bill on Sunday

A group of Lawrence students are taking to the streets this weekend in protest of a Kansas bill that would require transgender students in public schools to use the restrooms associated with their gender at birth.

The bill, introduced in January by Republican Rep. John Whitmer of Wichita, would also apply to locker rooms in schools as well as accommodations for students on overnight trips.

He and other proponents argue that the bill would protect students and their privacy. But Viveca Price, a junior at Lawrence High School and one of two student organizers behind Sunday’s protest in South Park, sees the proposed legislation as a direct attack on the rights of transgender students.

“It’s wrong and it puts people at risk,” Price told the Journal-World. “It’s just discrimination.”

Price, though not transgender herself, has friends who identify as such. She’s concerned that Whitmer’s bill would make transgender students targets for bullying. As part of the measure, schools would also have the option to create “alternative facilities” for transgender students.

Similar bills were proposed in the state House and Senate last year, but both died in committee. Whitmer’s newest piece of legislation, unlike older versions that addressed all public buildings, focuses solely on K-12 public schools.

“We’re just talking K-12 and all we’re doing is we’re saying, ‘Boys to boys, girls to girls and a reasonable accommodation for anybody who needs it.’ That’s it,” Whitmer told the Topeka Capital-Journal last month.

But for transgender students, Price argues, it’s not that simple. For many transgender youths, who already face a disproportionately high risk of suicide compared with the rest of the population, according to a study by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the Williams Institute, school can act as a refuge — particularly, she said, for those who may not feel accepted at home.

“This is just something that a lot of people don’t understand,” Price said. Without the refuge of school, she said, “it could feel like there’s not a lot of places to go in terms of, ‘I don’t feel safe; where do I go?’”

Price, who belongs to her school’s Total Equality Alliance, said she and fellow club members visited with the Lawrence school board last week to discuss issues facing LGBT youth. Whitmer’s proposed bill, she said, was one of those issues. She said the school district seems to be following the legislation closely.

Part of the school district’s upcoming bond issue is the addition of gender-neutral locker rooms and restrooms at Lawrence’s middle schools and high schools. Before any construction can begin, though, voters must first approve the $87 million projects (gender-neutral renovations account for a fraction of the total budget) in a May bond election. For now, some teachers at LHS have converted their staff restrooms into gender-neutral facilities, Price said.

Price expects most of her friends to attend this weekend’s protest, which will begin at 7 p.m. Sunday in South Park before the march through downtown Lawrence at 7:30 p.m. She also expects a few community members to attend, too, and hopes the protest will, at the very least, get people talking.

“That’s step one,” Price said. “I think it’s always good to call your state officials. Just show up, and you have to be willing to listen to what the other person’s saying.”

For more information on the protest, visit the "Fight for Trans Rights" event page on Facebook.

Comments

Marcia Epstein

I applaud those youth for making a public statement about the need to assure all youth that they are valued, and of course entitled to use the restroom of their identity. As noted by Viveca Price, trans (and gender nonconforming) people have higher rates of suicide attempts.

As death certificates do not yet list gender identity, precise data on the suicide deaths of trans and gender nonconforming people is not available. Please be aware that as the graphic explains, the factors that influence the frequency of suicide attempts are NOT factors about the individuals, but factors about how they are treated.

The newly created Strategic Plan for the City of Lawrence, KS <https://lawrenceks.org/strategic-plan> identifies seven Critical Success Factors, including "Safe, Healthy and Welcoming Neighborhoods." Treating all residents with respect and courtesy is clearly an essential component.

10 months, 1 week ago

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Marcia Epstein

Data for the graphic below is from Rylan Testa, PhD currently of Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee.

http://www2.ljworld.com/users/photos/...

10 months, 1 week ago

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Harlan Hobbs

Probably mostly boys who want to "sneak a peek" in the girls' locker room! I guess everyone is considered to be a "victim" by the liberals these days, even if they only represent maybe 1% of the population. Talk about the "tail wagging the dog."

10 months, 1 week ago

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Greg Cooper

Harlan, you are sick. Not a slam or disparaging you, but you are sick. Any adult who makes comments like that, especially about children, is sick. Get some help.

Or, maybe, just study the issue. But you won't.

10 months, 1 week ago

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Bob Summers

Easy fix. Raise taxes and build third and fourth and etc. as many extra bathrooms for all the people that self identify as something else. He, She, Ze, Hir, Zir, Ne, Ve, Spivak, Xe.

It's important that those that self identify as something else are emotionally comfortable when visiting the loo.

10 months, 1 week ago

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