Holding signs that read “No hate in my state” and “Wipe out trans phobia,” about 30 Johnson County high school students Friday demonstrated against a transgender restroom bill outside the Kansas statehouse.
“We’re here because we’re not going to tolerate discrimination against transgender people,” said Misha Marin, an Olathe North High School sophomore.
A bill introduced late in the Kansas legislative session would require transgender students at public schools and universities to use restrooms that match their gender at birth.
“When you go to the bathroom, you’re in there to do your business,” Marin said. “Why is this a problem?”
During the protest, students placed duct tape over their mouths for the national Day of Silence, an event that draws attention to anti-LGBT bullying in schools.
Just because someone is not like you doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have the same rights as you.
Rachel Mickey, an Olathe North senior
Last month, identical bills titled the Student Physical Privacy Act, SB 513 and HB 2737, were introduced in the Kansas House and Senate.
Proponents said the measure is needed to protect students from encountering members of the opposite sex in restrooms. The proposal would allow students to sue schools and colleges for $2,500 plus damages for possible emotional and physical harm if they have such an encounter.
The bill has incensed LGBT advocates. Similar measures have been introduced in more than a dozen states, including Missouri. North Carolina is drawing fire for its transgender restroom law, which covers public schools and government buildings.
Students said they organized Friday’s demonstration because they believe the bill’s real intent is to harass transgender people. And the $2,500 provision amounts to a “bounty” against transgender students, they said.
“I just want to open some minds,” said Rachel Mickey, an Olathe North senior. “Most people have been in a restroom with a transgender person and didn’t even know. Just because someone is not like you doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have the same rights as you.”
Legislative leaders said that because the bills were introduced so late in the session they’re unlikely to be debated in the chambers this year.