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State Senate committee to hear ‘bathroom bill’

The Senate Education Committee heard testimony from constituents about Senate Bill 98, which is sometimes referred to as the “bathroom bill.” The bill stipulates that “all school restrooms, locker rooms and shower rooms accessible for use by multiple students shall be designated for and used by male or female students only.”

Supporters of the bill say this is a privacy issue. The bill’s sponsor, Republican stat Sen. Ed Emery, said gender issues is not something the state has had to deal with since Missouri was founded. He said public institutions have always separated by genders.

One parent said her children would be “horrified” and “feel violated” if a person of the opposite sex was using the same restroom as them. That mother went on to say respect should go both ways and while she teaches her children to respect and accept others, others too should respect their right to privacy.

Emery said it’s the state’s job to protect every student’s privacy and safety, regardless of what gender that student identifies with. Emery said this bill is an attempt to do that.

Opponents, however, say this bill is discriminatory and can lead to bullying, something some transgender students already deal with. Many opponents cited studies that claim transgender students, when not in welcoming, accommodating homes or schools, face an attempted suicide rate of up to a 50 percent.

Many parents said their transgender children have already been using the bathroom they identify with and no one has raised an issue. They claimed changing this would bring unnecessary strain to schools’ budgets by the need to create unisex bathrooms or to the students who sometimes have to walk across campus to the nurse’s office to use the only unisex bathroom on campus.

According to the bill, “school personnel shall provide separate, distinct areas designated for use by students based on their biological sex.” The bill defines biological sex as male or female, “which is determined by a person’s chromosomes and is identified at birth.”

It also says any public school restroom, locker room and shower room designated for student use and accessible to multiple students at the same time can be used only “by students of the same biological sex. At no time shall a student be allowed to access a public school restroom, locker room or shower room designated for use by the opposite biological sex.”

The bill allows students who identify with a different gender than their biological one to have access to alternative restrooms, locker rooms or shower rooms. The student’s parent or guardian must give written consent for the student to use the alternative accommodations. The bill says the alternative accommodations cannot be used by students of the opposite biological sex.

Acceptable accommodations, according to the bill, include single-stall or unisex restrooms or faculty restrooms or locker rooms.

North Carolina passed a similar bill and major sporting groups have since moved tournaments and games from the state, most notably, the NBA All-Star game that was slated to be played in Charlotte before the bill passed. Local business owners claim they lost close to $100 million in revenue when the game was moved to New Orleans after the bill passed last summer. When New Orleans held the game in 2014, the city generated about $106 million over the weekend.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association has threatened to pull all championship games because of the state’s “bathroom bill”. North Carolina has at least four Division-I universities and has hosted the ACC Baseball Championship in Charlotte in recent years. If the NCAA does pull postseason play from North Carolina, the North Carolina Sports Association estimates the state could lose $500 million.

There could be similar effects in Missouri if Senate Bill 98 passes. In 2012, Major League Baseball held its All-Star Game in Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City. The NFL has also made comments indicating that state laws that conflict with the NFL’s commitment to be inclusive could factor into where it holds future Super Bowls. Arrowhead Stadium, home of the Kasas City Chiefs, is located in Missouri. The NCAA could pull postseason play from Missouri and SEC championships from being held at Mizzou.

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