Wednesday, October 14, 2015

A better way forward for transgender students

Democratic legislators present a more progressive vision for transgender youth in our state’s schools

Sen. Nikiya Harris Dodd
and Rep. Sondy Pope
Assembly Republican Rep. Jesse Kremer’s bill to require districts to enforce gender barriers in school restrooms across the state creates a separate but (un)equal distinction for students that identify with a gender that doesn’t correspond with what they were born into.

These students deal with real struggles on a daily basis. Three-quarters of trans students don’t feel safe at school. Almost 60 percent have been denied the right to use the bathrooms that correspond to their identity. More than 40 percent of transgender students have attempted suicide.

These statistics demonstrate that real challenges are posed to schools and administrators across the state. But the answer is not to discriminate or single out these students.

Fortunately, Democrats in the legislature have offered up a better way forward than Rep. Kremer’s vision.
Rep. Sondy Pope, D-Cross Plains, and Sen. Nikiya Harris Dodd, D-Milwaukee, sent legislators a memo Tuesday seeking cosponsors for their own proposal, which would require the state Department of Public Instruction to develop a model policy regarding transgender students. The bill would also require each school board in the state to adopt its own policy.
Rep. Pope and Sen. Harris Dodd present a logical path towards creating a more welcoming and accepting environment. We should applaud their efforts and encourage other lawmakers, from both sides of the aisle, to support this measure.

Most alarming about Rep. Kremer’s original bill is that he didn’t even ask members of the transgender community for input when he wrote it. His response to his bill possibly being perceived as “mean-spirited” also resulted in a “blame the victim” rant.
If [transgender students] really are concerned about this and they do identify as someone else, I don’t see why they’d like to make a big stink about it. If you’re making a big deal about it ... you obviously are inviting harassment and bullying already. Why would you not want to avoid that and go quietly to the district and make other arrangements?
Emphasis in bold added.

We’re fortunate to have lawmakers like Rep. Sondy Pope and Sen. Nikiya Harris Dodd in the legislature. Their ideals and dedication to creating a hospitable atmosphere to all students is clearly evident in the legislation they’re proposing. Rep. Jesse Kremer, on the other hand, let’s his bigotry and ignorance shine through with his proposal and his alarming defense of it.

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