Legislators advance K-12 ‘bathroom bill’
By Staff Reports
The House Education Policy Committee this past Wednesday approved a bill that would require students in kindergarten through 12th grade statewide to use facilities according to their gender assigned at birth. It would apply to all facilities limited by gender, including school bathrooms, showers, changing rooms and locker rooms.
Certain exceptions – such as custodial care, employees carrying out work duties, emergency health services and caretakers providing physical assistance – are included in HB-322, which is sponsored by Rep. Scott Stadthagen, R-Hartselle, and 47 others. The bill now moves to the full House and then to the Senate if approved.
“We’ve got a problem within our state. Almost every district is dealing with this issue,” Stadthagen said. “I find this to be a safety issue with protection of our students.”
Opponents of the bill call it discrimination disguised as a safety issue.
“All kids, and especially transgender kids, should feel safe and welcome in their school. This bill is not about safety,” the Human Rights Campaign said in a statement this past week. “If it were, it would promote safety for all kids, not jeopardize the health and well-being of transgender young people by further segregating, dehumanizing and excluding them in a place where they should be able to learn and grow up with dignity and respect.”
Stadthagen denied his bill targets the transgender community, saying safety of female students is his No. 1 priority.
“(The bathroom) should be the most private place a student should go, and for males to consider themselves as females and be allowed in a communal bathroom is unacceptable,” Stadthagen said. “As a parent, I do not want that to take place, and that’s why I brought this to the House of Representatives.
“There are some situations throughout the state where the kid’s showing up, first day of school, with their parents and attorneys,” Stadthagen said. “The school administrator is literally sitting there with an attorney presented to them, and that person wants to use the female bathroom as a male. And (the administrator) will offer them the faculty bathroom, and then the attorney will say ‘That’s discrimination toward my client, that’s not acceptable.’”
Stadthagen cited three incidences of assaults in public school bathrooms, noting there have been “several” more statewide.
One incident occurred in the Tennessee Valley in 2010, when a 14-year-old girl was assaulted at Sparkman Middle School. Another took place in Auburn in 2014 and another in Prattville in 2018.
“My goal is to prevent this from happening again to another female student,” Stadthagen said. “If we just had one case in the history of our state, that would be one too many.”
Republican party chairman John Wahl called the bill a “common sense” measure that would protect Alabama children.