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House votes to send student bathroom bill to state Senate

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) -- A bill limiting transgender students' bathroom and locker room usage may have a better chance of passing the state Senate than efforts last year to void an activities association policy to accommodate transgender athletes, Ma...

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - A bill limiting transgender students' bathroom and locker room usage may have a better chance of passing the state Senate than efforts last year to void an activities association policy to accommodate transgender athletes, Majority Leader Corey Brown said Wednesday.

The state House approved a bill that would require students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond to their biological sex, sending it over to the Senate.

Rep. Fred Deutsch said his bathroom plan is meant to protect the privacy of students while using showers, locker rooms and restrooms in public schools. The Republican said it has "nothing to do" with the activities association, which allows transgender student athletes to request playing on the team of their choice.

"I look at this as a values-based bill. Do we want our children to shower and dress in front of children of the opposite biologic sex? Is that who we are? Is that who we're becoming?" he said.

Under the plan, schools must also provide "reasonable accommodations" for transgender students' needs. Accommodations include a single-occupancy bathroom or the "controlled use" of a staff-designated restroom, locker room or shower room.

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The American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota and the Human Rights Campaign, groups that oppose the measure, say South Dakota would be the first state to pass such a law.

"This bill creates a hostile and toxic climate in South Dakota's education system for children who are transgender," Matt McTighe, executive director of national LGBT-rights group Freedom for All Americans, said in a statement. "With this and other harmful legislation pending, South Dakota legislators seem determined to make sure the state is an unwelcoming place for LGBT people to live and work."

Deutsch said the plan is a response the Obama administration's "overreach" in interpretation of federal anti-discrimination law related to education.

Federal officials have said that barring students from restrooms that match their gender identity is prohibited under Title IX anti-discrimination law.

Democratic Rep. Karen Soli called the bill "government overreach." She said a state law mandating how schools handle bathroom and locker room use "for our children and teenagers who are struggling to live in a body that does not match their understanding of themselves ... is neither wise nor necessary."

Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard told the Argus Leader that he hasn't yet read the bill, but said "it seems like a good accommodation."

Some legislators this session are also attempting again to void the current South Dakota High School Activities Association policy on transgender student athletes.

The bill says that a student's sex is what's listed on the birth certificate. If a birth certificate lacks a designation, a student's sex can be determined from a physical exam.

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Sponsor Rep. Roger Hunt, a Republican from Brandon, has said it's inappropriate to allow people to ignore certain information on an official state document.

Efforts to block the policy during the 2015 session stalled in the Senate after easily passing through the House.

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