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Calif. Bill Would Afford More Freedom to Transgender Student-Athletes

Transgender students in California would be permitted, based upon their gender identity, to choose which sex-segregated athletic team to join under a bill passed by the state legislature on July 3.

The bill, which now awaits a signature from Gov. Jerry Brown, would also allow transgender students to choose which school locker rooms and bathrooms to use. The author of the legislation, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, told the Associated Press that if Brown does sign the bill, it would mark the first time a state has mandated such protections through law.

Transgender students, for those unfamiliar with the term, are those whose gender identity does not align with their assigned, biological sex at birth. (Education Week opinion bloggers Peter DeWitt and the duo of Jill Berkowicz and Ann Myers each wrote posts about transgender students earlier this year, if you're looking for more information.)

The California bill passed the state assembly by a 46-25 vote back on May 9, and was approved by a 21-9 vote in the state Senate on July 3. The governor's office refused to comment to the AP about whether Brown would sign the bill into law.

While California may be on the verge of becoming a trend-setter in this specific regard, a few other states have seen similar action in recent years.

In November 2011, Massachusetts enacted a law, "An Act Relative to Gender Identity," which added gender-related identity to several state statutes prohibiting discrimination on the basis of specified categories. Earlier this year, the Massachusetts Department of Education issued guidance for schools about the treatment of transgender students, specifically noting that transgender students "may access the restroom, locker room, and changing facility that corresponds to the student's gender identity."

While some students "may feel uncomfortable with a transgender student using the same sex-segregated restroom, locker room or changing facility," the state department of education declared that "this discomfort is not a reason to deny access to the transgender student."

Earlier this year in Colorado, the state's Civil Rights Division ruled in favor of a six-year-old transgender student whose elementary school barred her from using the girls' bathroom, according to The Gazette. The paper reported that the decision "marks the first ruling in the nation holding that transgender students must be allowed to use bathrooms that match the gender with which they identify."

So, in some sense, California may simply be ahead of the curve with its legislation awaiting the governor's signature.

If Brown does sign the bill into law, check out our Rules for Engagement blog for more.

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