Republicans want to let cis students sue schools that don’t exclude trans kids

Maggie Baska
·2-min read

Republican lawmakers in Tennessee have introduced a bill that would allow cisgender students to sue a school if they are ‘forced’ to share school facilities with trans students.

Jason Zachary, a Republican congressman from Knoxville, introduced House Bill 1233 at the same time Mike Ball, a Republican senator from Riceville, introduced its sister bill in the Senate, SB 1367.

The bills would effectively allow students the ability to refuse to share facilities – such as bathrooms, locker rooms and dorms – with trans students. Cisgender students could then sue publicly-funded schools that do not provide them with “reasonable accommodations”.

Zachary argued his bill arose from schools’ confusion over handling bathroom access to students based on their gender identities. He told The Tennessean that his bill would provide protection for “all children” and present a “clear path forward” for schools to follow.

Zachary described how one high school reached out to him after dealing with a “problem with boys using the girls’ restroom”. He said the school felt “handcuffed” and that there’s “not much they can do about it”.

“This bill takes care of that,” Zachary said. “It stops all that and just provides absolute clarity.”

Chris Sanders, executive director of the Tennessee Equality Project, told The Tennessean that the state’s legislature is “going on the attack against trans students and youth”. He added: “Now, the legislature comes along and says ‘hey everybody, there’s this category of people that we will protect you from if you want to be protected from’.”

Under the bill, cisgender students would be allowed to submit a written request for reasonable accommodation if they say they’re not comfortable with sharing school facilities with trans people.

If they later “encounter a person of the opposite sex in a multi-occupancy restroom” or other facilities, a cisgender student could sue the school for not providing them with reasonable accommodations.

The bill further says that sex is defined as a person’s biological sex at birth instead of their gender identity. As such, Zachary said trans students would have to, by default, use the facilities which are in accordance with their gender as assigned at birth.

“If they were born as a boy, they will use a single-occupancy restroom,” Zachary explained, referring to a hypothetical trans girl.

The major problem with Zachary’s bill is that it would go against federal law. President Joe Biden signed an executive order that banned discrimination in educational facilities based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The order specifically focused on “guaranteeing an educational environment free from discrimination on the basis of sex, including sexual orientation or gender identity”.