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Schools Getting Handle On Gender Access Law
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In California schools, a student’s gender identity, not their biological sex, will determine whether or not they participate in girls or boys activities and sports, as well as which restroom they use due to a bill recently signed into law.

AB 1266 is aimed at all sex-segregated school programs and facilities and allows students to participate in activities and use facilities “consistent with his or her gender identity, irrespective of the gender listed on the pupil’s records.”

To explain, it allows children in grades K-12 to use bathrooms, locker rooms, and play on sports teams of the opposite sex, if they identify their gender as different than their biological sex.

The controversial bill passed the state Senate by a wide margin as well as the Assembly, and on Aug. 12 Gov. Jerry Brown signed it into law. It will take effect this school year, as of Jan. 1, 2014.

The bill requires all school districts to implement the law. Administrators at the Oakdale Joint Unified School District are reviewing the law right now, making sure they understand all the specifics, said Larry Mendonca, OJUSD Assistant Superintendent for Pupil Services and Facilities. He added that there a number of specifics not detailed in the law.

Mendonca said the district is looking to receive guidance from legal counsel and also the California School Boards Association and working with them to develop policy.

“(We’ll) hopefully get clarification as to the standards or the criteria that a district would use to validate that gender identity is different than what the student’s biological sex is,” Mendonca said. “That’s a little unclear that we’d like some guidance on, so we’ll be pursuing that, trying to get some information how the school district can make those determinations and what kind of standard we would establish that on.”

He reported that they expect to have clear direction in by Jan. 1, 2014. He said they hope to have all the answers at that point, but acknowledged that “sometimes clarification comes as districts across the state face challenges to implementation due to differing interpretation of the language in the law.”

Mendonca also said that they want to look at options and make things available so that if or when the matter should come up that they handle it appropriately.

“We’re looking into different optional provisions for students who have gender identity different than their biological sex, so that perhaps if there’s something the district can do to accommodate that student, and keeping in mind the sensitivities and needs of other students who may be affected in this,” he said.

Mendonca said that they always pursue being compliant with the law.

“We just need a little more clarification as to how to apply this and, again, working to establish policy and some standards, and how we determine what that is and how we proceed,” he said.

Regarding concerns of parents, he said the district strives to do that with all its policies and that those concerns will be addressed on an individual basis to come to resolution. He said they will do their best to “find consensus and a satisfactory solution” for those involved.

“We do our best to articulate the law and how we establish policy to comply, coupled with using a common sense approach that supports the expected standards of our community,” Mendonca said.

Conservative group, the Sacramento-based Pacific Justice Institute is opposed to the law and is seeking to repeal AB 1266. It has filed language for a ballot referendum with the state attorney general’s office.