Sex & Gender /

Bill Requiring Individuals to Use School Bathrooms That Match Their Biological Sex Sent to Iowa Governor's Desk

'Bills like this continue a line of efforts to use fear and violence to force people into gender roles assigned by society,' said a Democratic state senator

The Iowa legislature has voted to prohibit people from using bathrooms or changing rooms in public schools that do not correspond with their biological sex.

The measure has been sent to Governor Kim Reynolds who is expected to sign the bill into law.

Senate File 482 was passed by the Senate 33-16 on March 7 and the House of Representatives 57-39 on March 16. The bill was widely supported by Republicans and opposed by Democrats in both chambers. 

This bill requires elementary and secondary public schools to designate and allow the use of multiple occupancy restrooms and changing areas only by persons of the same biological sex,” reads the text of the legislation. “The bill prohibits a person from entering a single or multiple occupancy restroom or changing area in a school that does not correspond with the person’s biological sex. The bill allows schools to provide alternative facilities upon a request to school officials for alternative facilities from the parents of the student.”

The policy also permits Iowa residents to file a complaint with the attorney general if a public school is in violation — provided they have complained to the school and the school has not fixed the violation within three days. 

Opponents of the bill have argued it will make children who identify as transgender targets for harassment.

“It gives license to a new core of potty police,” said state Senator Liz Bennett, a Democrat, per We Are Iowa. “Instead of minding their own business and just going to the bathroom, kids will use this to bully other kids. Bills like this continue a line of efforts to use fear and violence to force people into gender roles assigned by society.”

Iowa Safe School, a group that advocates for LGBTQ issues in educational environments, said the bill is “an asinine course of action.”

“This bill would only further isolate transgender youth in our schools and would require transgender school staff, parents, and guardians, to use the restroom associated with their sex assigned at birth,” the group wrote on Twitter on March 15. “Fully male-presenting transgender men would be required to share the restroom with young girls.”

Proponents of the policy say the bill protects children and ensures their right to privacy.

“We all want the best for our kids,” said State Senator Cherielynn Westrich, the Republican who sponsored the bill, per 3 News Now. “And when we send them off to school, we expect them to be safe, well cared for. … Iowa kids are all going to be safe, they’re all going to be well cared for, and they’re all going to be provided … facilities where they can have privacy.”

“I do understand and empathize with a child that may not feel comfortable using the bathroom of their biological sex. Accommodations should be made when possible to keep that child comfortable as they change or use the restroom,” said Representative Steven Holt, per AP News. “However, that cannot be done or should not be done at the expense of the privacy and safety of our daughters.”

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