Dear South Dakota,
I heard you recently passed a bill to help ensure students have their privacy respected, and I wanted to say "thanks!"
I do, however, have a few concerns I hope you can help me with. I was reading through the bill, appropriately titled, "An Act to restrict access to certain restrooms and locker rooms in public schools," and while it’s not the sexiest title (you can’t even make an acronym out of it — I mean … AATRATCRALRIPS?), that’s not really the focus. The important thing is that it ensures student privacy and, as Republican state Sen. David Omdahl said, "to preserve the innocence of our young people."
I, too, think it’s important that we preserve the innocence of our young people, which is why I wanted to ask a few things about the bill before the governor decides whether he'll sign or veto. Let’s start with the obvious questions.
If you define "biological sex" as "the physical condition of being male or female as determined by a person’s chromosomes and anatomy as identified at birth," I have to ask what category you place people who either haven’t had their chromosomes tested (which, I don’t know about you, but I certainly haven’t; that’s not something they do to newborns) or people with "anatomy" (very vague) that falls somewhere outside the male/female binary (as much as 1% of the population)?
Here's that section from your bill:
"BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF SOUTH DAKOTA:
Section 1. That chapter 13–24 be amended by adding a NEW SECTION to read:
The term, biological sex, as used in this Act, means the physical condition of being male or female as determined by a person’s chromosomes and anatomy as identified at birth."
This next part came to my attention because, well, I’m just curious what this has to do with "preserving innocence" or privacy? Do kids still take showers in schools? That don’t have private stalls? It’s been a while since I was in school, but I can’t remember a single time anybody in my grade school or high school used the showers after gym class. Most people just showered at home, I think.
I decided to run a very informal poll, and yep, it seems as though open showers are a thing of the past.
And when it comes to restrooms, I’ve never seen anybody’s genitals (nor had the opportunity to test their DNA) while using the bathroom. I’m a firm believer that if you’re seeing others’ genitals while you use the bathroom, then you’re, well, bathrooming wrong.
And I’m curious how you plan to test students’ anatomy and/or chromosomes. That is, how will you enforce this new law? Will there be genital checks upon entering locker rooms? Do students need to give a blood sample? Surely you have some system in place. I’m sure you wouldn’t pass a law without — well, who knows?
But again, from your bill:
"Section 2. That the code be amended by adding a NEW SECTION to read:
Every restroom, locker room, and shower room located in a public elementary or secondary school that is designated for student use and is accessible by multiple students at the same time shall be designated for and used only by students of the same biological sex. In addition, any public school student participating in a school sponsored activity off school premises which includes being in a state of undress in the presence of other students shall use those rooms designated for and used only by students of the same biological sex."
Actually, the more I think about it, the more it seems like this bill actively wipes away innocence. I mean, I wouldn’t want a teacher looking at my junk. I wouldn’t feel as though my privacy is protected any better if a public school (which is essentially the government) had access to my DNA. That’d actually make me feel a whole lot less protected. I’d feel violated, even.
It seems to me that this bill wasn’t properly thought through. It sounds expensive (if you’re going to ensure people are in the "right" restroom and locker room, this’ll be pricey!), and it sounds like — well, I’m no lawyer, but — it sounds to me like this invites lawsuits. I could be wrong.
But can you tell me how knowing what students’ genitals look like helps ensure their privacy? It seems to me like this bill is a solution in search of a problem; sadly, that "solution" will only cause more problems.